Volunteer blog 10th February – 21st February 2014

Mamma Afrika

10/02/2014 – 21/02/2014

We’re sitting in Base camp and looking back at two amazing weeks. It started just wonderful with ‘the bull with the broken tusk’ visiting base camp just when we arrived on Monday.

One tusk elephant

Build week was tough. Collecting rocks, sand and mixing cement, but we have managed with only four of us to dig a foundation and start building a new wall. It was actually great doing this. Like Chris said: A happy farmer is a happy elephant’.

Elephants

 Patrol week was the best! On our first morning we tracked down Mamma Afrika and Ugab small herd. It was amazing to see the elephants from such a short distance. After that we tracked the elephants every day and tried to collect some poo for the American DNA research. We were lucky several times! Not having a shower and do your ‘bush business’ wasn’t that bad at all and the food was really good.

Elephant Mamma Afrika and calf Madiba

Thank you Chris and Matthias for taking care of us. We really had a fun(and swaffel) time!

Cameron, Hannah, Jennifer and Kate

Volunteer group pic

 For Chris this was an exceptional trip as this was the very first time they were offered accommodation on a farm in a room! He said they were very lucky to get that room as it rained heavily throughout the night and even the goats were trying to get into the room. He also is thanking the farmer for offering the accommodation and the volunteers for these past two weeks!

Volunteer accommodation

Volunteer Blog 27th January – 7th February 2014

 

EHRA Volunteers group

27th January

Cat from the UK

Paradise would have to work to beat the eco-wow factor EHRA base camp has to offer. After driving for a few hours through the awe-inspiring wilderness that is the Namibian desert and taking a dirt track over the dry Ugab river, we rolled up in our vehicle to base camp. Our bed for the night was built into the tree canopy, views of rock boulder hills and later at night a sky full of stars awaited our team.

However, no time to relax too much, as this was only to be for the one night before embarking further on our adventure!

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 WELCOME TO BUILD WEEK!

A 3-hour morning drive, picking cement bags up on the way, saw us arriving at the farm where our work was to begin. What once was a stoney sandy space with a couple of evil, spiky acacia trees soon transformed into our base camp for the next few days – tarpaulin up, kitchen tent (and fronts!) constructed, fire pit and “toilet dug”, it was starting to feel like home – well almost!

No rest for the wicked, at 3.30pm – once the heat of the day had passed – we headed down  armed with water and work gloves to the water point. Here we admired the beginning of the wall the previous group have started. “180cm”- Chris yelled- this was the height the wall needed to be built – a big challenge given that a couple of us (me included!) in the team were only 160cm tall! Vertical challenges aside – the team was eager to start.

That evening, after baby wipe showers, we set our roll mats and settled in by the fire for some lovely food cooked in bush baby pots (or Baby bush as Rickie called them!) The team over the next few days worked between the morning and late afternoon and got into the swing of participating in the daily sand run, mixing cement in the wheelbarrows, rock finding and building – team work!

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It was touch and go whether we would finish it despite our hard work as we nearly ran out of cement. Phew, Chris to the rescue drove to the town (1hour and a half away) to buy some more bags of cement!

Determined to finish, the team powered through the final hours at the speed of lightning and with Mattias’ expert skills-finished the wall! Elation! What a feeling-we had built a wall! The farm owners were so pleased with our work that they gave us a goat! It is a very high level of appreciation in the African culture, despite a couple of us within the team that wanted to free the goat (ha-ha!). The farmers ‘prepared’ the goat for the meat eaters within the group. A happy group set off back to base camp – via the shop where cool drinkers and copious numbers of magnum ice creams were consumed!! BRING ON PATROL WEEK! After a shower of course….!

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BUILD WEEK SURVIVAL GUIDE

What to bring…..

-Baby wipes! And lots of them

-Work gloves (not woolly gloves-Who brings woolly gloves to a desert?!)

-Rehydration sachets

-Plenty of salty snacks – no chocolate!!

-Sunscreen, sunhat, glasses

-One change of clothes – yes it can be done!!

-Bottled water (the water from the tank even with juice taste gross!!)

-Sense of humour

-Team work mentality

Thanks for a fantastic week so far, I am really looking forward to patrol week and seeing the elephants!

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 Karen from Denmark

Victorious is how I feel when:

-          I get out of my comfort-zone

-          I decided to go

-          I go through the heat

-          I am at peace in the group without taking too much responsibility

-          I am without a bath for 4 days….

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Gratefulness is how I feel when:

-          I am sitting at the fire at 5:30 in the morning listening to an elephant braking branches in the dark 20m away

-          I see the baby elephant stumble around with his family

-          I feel my senses kicking in as my ancient reptile brain awakens as it was always meant to do, but doesn’t!

-          I listen to Chris being Chris – funny, serious and one of the most knowing people I have ever met!

-          I know that Mattias-always in the background-silent, observant, helping and eye out for everybody!

I am leaving tomorrow, but the African sky, memories of shooting stars and this trip will stay forever. I had a dream of following a herd of elephants 23 years ago. The dream has been fulfilled! Thank you Chris, Mattias, the group and EHRA! It has been a heart-opening experience!

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 Emile and Riekie from Holland

Once upon a time…

When we fell in love with Namibia last year we knew we want to go back and do more. After searching we decided we want to do something for people and nature. It became EHRA and wow, what an amazing time we had. We choose 4 weeks, because we thought it will give us more sight in what they do. And it was rewarding. The first building week we started a wall at a farmers place with a wonderful group of people and of course Chris and Mattias made it complete. Sometimes the work was hard, but it was satisfying getting cement and the sand runs. Teamwork and a lot of laughs made it already a fantastic first week. Our reward came sooner than we expected. While driving back to base camp (lovely view) we talked about patrol week and seeing the elephants. There they are “waiting” for us at base camp. They walked by and this was our first meeting with Mamma Afrika and Ugab small heard. Patrol week starts and what a special week again. Especially Wednesday and Thursday.  It was a wonderful lunch surrounded by elephants and what about Thursday, Voortrekker the largest bull came closer and it was like he said goodbye. What an amazing experience!

Volunteers relaxing

Unfortunately these two weeks came to an end. The last dinner and going out night was the best way to say goodbye, we shared the best moments.

And then it was Sunday and a start of another 2 weeks, new people and new experiences. During building week we did a great job finishing the wall which we started with the first group. The people were grateful and gave us a goat! We are not really used to this type of presents, but again…..a real African experience. So another patrol week is coming. Could we have so much luck again? Yes! Again seeing elephants every day.  Yesterday it was almost a show. The little 4 month old Otumbwe came to see us at the car and show us how tough he was. Ulysess also came to us and say hello to the people on the rocks, and could almost kiss him :)

On Thursday, we woke up early because we heard twigs breaking. And there he came, down the koppie. Later on we found the herd again and Kambonde came closer and closer!  This was the best goodbye we could ask for. At this moment we write this on the swing in base camp and realise that we leave this camp for real. We are blessed and keep these moments we had in our hearts. Thanks guys for having good foods, camp fires, good (warm) wines, a lot of laughs, special evenings always sleeping outdoors with the stars and different places. And especially Chris thanks a lot!!

Desert elephant Duchess and Otumwe

 Lena from Sweden

My two weeks at EHRA went so quickly. The first week was building and it was hot, heavy and fun. The most important thing to bring is baby wipes! But the satisfaction of building, and finally see the wall finish is a great feeling. And the wonderful feeling of sleeping under the African sky is unbeatable. The second week is amazing. To be so close to the elephants is fantastic, but be aware, don’t bring a flowering scarf, the elephants might want it :)

Thanks for a wonderful 2 weeks.  I would love to come back, hopefully with my son.

Ps: Thanks a lot Chris for being such a spice, master and Mattias for being just Mattias

African nights sky

Volunteer Blog 13th January – 24th January 2014

EHRA Volunteer group at the end of elephant tracking

Thursday 23rd Jan 2014 – Steph Hart, UK

I was a bit scared at first traveling alone, but as soon as I landed, I knew I had nothing to worry about. Namibia is a stunning country. At the hostel we had the 6h30 meeting in the bar, Chris our guide is so incredibly passionate and knowledgeable. He has a lot to share if you want to learn. The other volunteers were incredibly friendly. The 6 of us went for pizza and beer to get to know each other before we left for base camp. Build week was hard work, but we still enjoyed ourselves and had a fun time whilst working, definitely listening to the advice regarding re-hydration sachets! I had one a day and didn’t suffer in the heat. Bring cards or a game for the lunch breaks as it’s a long time (2 hours) and often too hot to sleep. Patrol week too was indescribable. Seeing a fully grown 40 year old bull walk up to the car, takes your breath away! We were lucky enough to see elephants everyday on patrol. Each time was a special moment watching them eat, drink and play as a family. It brought home why we had spent the previous week working so hard. To help those animals! The highlight was to be coming back to base camp after build week and finding not one, but two herds of elephants in the riverbed, who then walked by base camp as if to say “thank you”. Two weeks wasn’t enough, I’m not ready to go home! My advice to anyone thinking about volunteering with EHRA is to listen to what the guides have to say. Pack light as you rarely change clothes during build week, baby wipes and a head torch are your best friends. Keep an open mind. Don’t be shy to do the hard work as the rewards are worth every cut, sweat, ache and pain. Thanks EHRA for an incredible experience and thanks Chris for teaching us about the star!

Money doesn’t make you rich, experiences like this make you richer

Elephants in the riverbed

17th January 2014, Melanie, Germany

After finishing our first build week already a bit early on Friday morning (Chris might have thought it might take us more time to use all the 15 plus cement bags) we re-entered base camp about early afternoon. We were all a bit exhausted and a heavy rain storm caught us on our way back as well. But when Chris mentioned the fresh elephant footprints in camp, we all got our easy spirits back!. After hearing this news, we quickly unloaded the car, had a inspection on the footprints, and about 200 metres from the camp there were the elephants in the bush. We climbed the platform for a closer inspection when suddenly they started to move! Towards us! Chris made us walk into and climb onto the stone dome house/storeroom and wow! The whole Mama Africa herd and Ugab Small herd were passing very close by. Almost every elephant walked to the water pit to put their trunk into the pit, the little one even climbed the pit. Unfortunately it was empty, (the drought in Namibia is also effecting the EHRA camp) so they quickly went on walking away. Then, when just 2 little ones were running to the water pit, a loud thunder clap happened and the 2 babies hurried to get back to their mum. So cute! But then, we didn’t even recover from having all the elephants walking by so close when all the elephants came back and walked in the opposite direction along the riverbed. Wow. I didn’t know that elephants were afraid of thunder and lightning! So this was our incredible first contact with these amazing creatures and we should have many more delightful moments with them. But already this afternoon in base camp we found a great experience. We couldn’t help but celebrating this with our first beer since 1 weekJ!

Thanks EHRA, for having made this experience possible, and thanks especially to Chris & Matthias, our passionate and good humoured guides. Keep on doing it!

Volunteers keeping themselves busy

Volunteer Blog -4th November – 15th November 2013

14th November 2013

Chris made me eat dung. I am not lying!!!

I had an amazing time. Loved the stars, elephants (of course!), the amazing landscape, the heat, the sweat, the elephants (did I mention that before?)-the list goes on and on….

Build week was hard. Not having a shower was harder than I imagined, but we laughed through it. And believe me you get used to the smell. You really do! Though beware of suicidal caterpillars (they climbed into Lisa’s mouth in the middle of the night!!!)

Patrol was AMAZING (apart from eating dung). We saw loads of wildlife. Too many Ostriches in this country…the landscape is beautiful…we were in the Huab River.

I feel sad it is over (though I won’t miss porridge), but have some great memories to day dream about when I am in front of the computer.

MK (UK)

Image14th November 2013

Well, where do I start? What an amazing experience!!! Build week was very hard, but it makes or breaks you –literally. Working near 40⁰ heat is unbelievable. Lots of sweat and dust but I now know how to make cement and build a wall. I feel we have made a difference. We built a wall to protect a pump that is visited at night by the elephants for water. The local people are frightened by elephants, so by educating and helping them, hopefully the elephants will be protected and not prosecuted. Although we all moaned, I really did enjoy shoveling sand, collecting rocks, mixing cement and trying to make a jigsaw out of rocks and finding the rocks for the space is evading you. How frustrating.

The worst thing I found was the cooking. I just found I was scared that I may have poisoned someone, but we all survived. Even myself after I inadvertently ate a caterpillar that had crawled in my mouth. Tasty???

Patrol week-hard working? What can I say again: Just as we were packing the truck up 2 bulls walked passed camp.  Now it only got better. We tracked 2 herds of elephants. We have learned the basics of tracks and surviving in the wild. The camp on the second night of patrol week was very exciting. Chris starring at you and flashing his head torch at you when you leave the campsite for pee is so funny, just because there was a lion…….away was fun. I don’t think we will be camping there again!!

To sum up-we survived elephants, scorpions, lions, caterpillars and cooking.

A fantastic experience. What an honour and a privilege to work on such a worthy cause and to see such wonderful, beautiful creatures.

Love It, Lisa (England)

Image14th November 2013

Amazing, incredible, unbelievable etc…. none of these words do this experience justice at all.

5:45-6:30 wake up calls everyday are pretty easy to adjust to, when your tea or coffee are brought to you by the crew/volunteers on duty. The porridge may make you want to head back to your sleeping bag to hide. The first day of building is brutal but Chris doesn’t lie when he says, you get used to it knowing that the river of sweat running down your face while you go on sand/rock runs and mix cement is actually benefiting an elephant makes it more than worth it. We were lucky enough to have elephants walk by our camp at the farm on our first night!!! All the short naps between wild-life sounds, potty-break, sleeping bags openings, and bright skies under beautiful stars weren’t that bad either. Light sleepers beware-bring ear plugs.

Patrol week is an experience out of this world. I haven’t quite figured out how to put those feelings into words. All I can say is that I’m thankful: For the people I met, the wildlife/game that I saw, Chris and Mattias’s knowledge that made me feel safe, fun camp fire, chats, tasty, improvised meals(thanks, Chris!), and the life changing moment where I saw my first elephant.

Thank you for this chance, EHRA.

“Insert goat call”nnette, USA

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Volunteer Blog – 21st October – 1st November 2013

Project 21\10\2013 

General Comment: Exceeded Elephants in almost every area! 

Build week was fun and interesting. Working hard but with plenty of rest and good company. Camp was so well organized and the sanic conditions were unfounded. Slept really well, great (!) food Suggest EHRA publishes a recipe book with photos etc. Could be given at the coffee table and a possible earner. It was a great experience living on a farm seeing firsthand the challenges the farmers face. It’s such an inhospitable land. The beauty of the land is intense and there are plenty of opportunities to go for walks, take photos and take it all in. Work was rewarding and fun. Patrol week was a massive priveledge. The expert knowledge of our guides just enhanced the incredible experience of observing these amazing creatures at such close range. Everyday brought more amazing situations and when we could watch the herds at one of the water points it brought the whole experience to till circle. Camping in the foothills of Brandberg Mountain I will never forget. The Brandberg is so dramatic and absolutely beautiful. Leaving the road animal tracks was really interesting. Chris, Mattias and Marius were brilliant. I will recommend this project and cannot find a negative comment- maybe a little too much gem squash! Thank you EHRA! It has been a huge priveledge 

Caroline 

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21/10/2013 – 01/11/2013 

Where do I start? It has been an amazing two weeks and I wish it wasn’t coming to an end. Build week was hard work but a great learning experience. We started building a new water point wall for a farmer that had been “visited” often by elephants. We all worked within our own abilities and everyone-staff and volunteers-helped each other out. Duties ranged from mixing cement, sand and aggregate (to make concrete) to collecting rocks for the wall to stacking the rocks and concrete up to form the wall. In the evenings we took turns cooking. I was a little worried about food, being a vegetarian, but realized quickly that I had no need to be – between Thai green curry, veggie potjie, (veg) spaghetti Bolognese etc. It was quite luxurious, I must say. The volunteers ranged from students to accountants to graphic designers, from different countries and across all age groups. It was a great mix and everyone was really friendly. Great chance to interact with people from all walks of life. 

During patrol week, we spent the week following the elephant herds to observe them and collect pictures and data for EHRA’s records. I found out that EHRA shares the information with Namibian government so it’s really valuable work being done to protect the species. The highlight of patrol week for me was when three elephants came right up to our jeep, looked at us, sniffed the jeep with their trunks and walked on. Such a special moment I’ll never forget. 

Special thanks to Chris, Mattias and Marius for making this such a wonderful trip for us all. Between Chris’ insight and enthusiasm, Mattias’ brilliant sense of humour and Marius’ extensive knowledge on everything under the sun, it really was the perfect combination. Thanks, guys-you were truly fantastic! 

All-in-one, a very insightful trip. I’ve learnt a lot about nature, Namibia, elephants and discovered so much about myself. The best moment for me? Staying up every night to watch the stars in the sky It was truly magical. One fine night I saw a shooting star for the first time. And I made a wish. 

This was a life-changing experience. My only regret is not staying longer.

Hugs, …..Soniaxoxoxo 

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21.10.13 -1.11.13 

My first trip to Namibia and a wonderful experience. Build week was challenging but fun, my favourite job was the rock run though I don’t think I could ever compete with Mattias in a rock lifting competition. Everybody worked hard and we got as much of the wall build as possible hopefully the next group will finish it. Whilst I enjoyed build week the real highlight of the trip for me was patrol week, following the elephants and at times having them very close to the vehicles checking us out was one of the best experiences of my life, they are without doubt one of the most intelligent species on earth, but someone needs to tell Voortrekker to stop showing off. 

I would recommend this trip to anyone who has a love for wildlife in their hearts. All the guys who work for EHRA are fantastic and have an in-depth knowledge of the Namibian wildlife and the issues they face. 

EHRA is a wonderful organization set up and run by wonderful people and I hope they are around for a long time to help conserve one of planet earth’s most iconic species. 

Thanks EHRA……Mark Jameson 

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It was a really amazing experience to be so close to the elephants! I really enjoyed the two weeks far away from civilization. Everyone should do this, because we don’t need much to be happy. Sitting by the fire with a tea, in the night starring at the stars-that’s all you need to be happy! 

Thanks a lot to Chris, Mattias and Marius, they did a great job! Hope EHRA will exist for a long time! 

Thanks for all,

Christiane Werum 

PS: Guys, please bring a lot of baby wipes with you – you will need them!

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Volunteer blog – 9th September – 20th September 2013

September 2013

(This entry appears to be written by a plastic flamingo kinder surprise toy!)

My EHRA adventures began when a build-week weary crew rocked up in the dusty town of Uis with a chocolate craving and a curiosity for African kinder surprise toys-and there I was! I was invited to be the car mascot for patrol week and gratefully accepted, but the bloody Ausies called me Kylie! I took up my place in a car in the back of the seat, but my one-legged karate stance made it a bit hard to stay upright on the bumpy dirt roads, especially with Mathias’ erratic driving. First stop for patrol week was at an EHRA sponsored school, where we handed out donations of blankets, underwear, pens and pencils for the kids. They were so grateful and sang 3 songs for us – I’ll have to remember to tell my flock about the GROOVY song – it was awesome! It wasn’t long after that that we spotted our first ellies! They were so huge and I was at first quite scared, but thankfully I was squished into the back of the seat by the volunteers climbing onto the roof of the 4×4 to get a better view. I was most thankful as I couldn’t move my plastic wings to cover my eyes! Mamma Afrika and some bulls were the first ones we come across. It was the first time I’d seen elephants and it was amazing. You don’t come across as many on the Supermarket shelves in Uis, let me tell you! The second and third days of patrol we saw the G6 and Ugab Small herds. They came right up to the cars and rocks that we were sitting on, it was such an incredible experience. Back at the base camp now and I’ve taken pride of place on the table. I do hope other groups look after me – I am quite adventurous and can be quite fun! Just like EHRA J Even though I’ve only been with the group for a week, we all had a great laugh. Can’t wait to see what we get up to on my next adventure!

Love – Karate kicks

            Kylie the Flamingo

Handing out donations

Handing out donations

9-19th September

Our two weeks are almost up and everyone is chilling out at base camp enjoying a little

R’n’ R. The breezy tree house is the perfect spot to unwind, reflect and chat about the fabulous two weeks we’ve just had. Elephant patrol – well it goes without saying how awesome it is to see the desert elephants roaming free going about their daily routine. Build week – well it seems so long ago! Despite us all being strangers at the beginning, we pulled together to achieve a near complete wall and all felt rather pleased with our hard work at the end. Memories I’ll take away with me….great people and new friends, the smell of burning ellie dung, Mattias’s laugh, bird chatter everywhere, super tasty camp dinners, superb sunsets and of course the elephants. We were lucky enough to have the G6 herd come right up to our patrol cars twice. We were within metres of them and at one point completely surrounded!

My top tips for enjoying your time at EHRA:

  1. You can never have too many wet wipes!
  2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! (Unless you like the scaly look…)
  3. You know it’s hot when the Mopani bees make an appearance – beware of their preference for getting up noses and ears!
  4. Burning elephant dung helps keep the bees at bay and actually smells quite pleasant too.
  5. Bring a few cold beers or ciders to enjoy at the end of the day – African sundowners are the best!
  6. Mattias will manage to make you look like a pony weakling with his superb boulder carrying capabilities – just accept it!
  7. Dry shampoo isn’t all its cracked up to be….just tie it all back or shove it under a hat and save luggage space for wet wipes!
  8. One set of clothes for build week is perfectly acceptable. Everybody smells as bad as each other J
  9. If you are sprung by goats during “bush business” beware…the farmer is usually close behind!
  10. The resident camp hornbill’s name is “Haratio” (Steve)…just so you know!
  11. Amidst the hundreds of photos you take on ellie patrol, just remember to also just sit, enjoy and immerse yourself in watching them not through the lens of a camera.
  12. Come with a sense of humour and lots of enthusiasm. Laugh lots and enjoy all the experiences thrown your way!

 Thank you Chris, Mattias, Baron, Rachel, Victro and the rest of the EHRA team for a fab experience. EHRA rocks and I hope to come back again one day…

Big hugs, Peta xxxxx,

                Australia

Taking a closer look

Taking a closer look

9-9th September 2013

As we lie asleep, the protective arms of the Anna tree embrace us, the stars above twinkling like diamond studs along the boughs. A gentle breeze rustling the leaves is the only noise.

Suddenly the cry of the pearl spotted owl interrupts the peace. Dawn is coming. I lie awake snuggled in my sleeping bag, as one by one the stars are snuffed out by the slow light of sunrise. The birds are stirring – bullbulls and starlings chatter and babblers babble – Horatio (Steve) starts cooing to his mate.

A rustle of bags and tiptoes on the staircase is followed by the clattering of pans and snapping of twigs as those on kitchen duty to get the breakfast going. A muttered curse under the breath “bloody pat’s been at the bin again!”

Sunlight seeps along the riverbed, painting the valley with hazy light. The rocks turn ochre, the leaves lime, and the branches golden.  The EHRA crew comes slowly to life, fumbling for hats as tea and coffee is passed around their tree house home.

“Porridge is ready,” a voice calls. And so another day at EHRA base camp begins. Enjoy!

Cat Early (UK)

Ps. Pat is like a porcupine

Half finished wall

Half finished wall

 19th September 2013

“Can you feel the love tonight” – to quote the i-pod? Cheesy enough to sum up this trip? Awesome – in fact “fibre glass”.

Just glad I don’t have to do another patrol week with the terrible trio – Claiirrre, Ozzy sheep type; Maureen, always beautiful despite the muddy-dust and compulsory hair-plaiting; and Liam – trainee….to be up-dated in 4 weeks!  To sum up, it’s been “G.R.O…another….O.O.O…V.Y….spells groovy!” Thanks Chris! P.S – sorry…..I forgot Margarita – or shall I call you Martini – so nice to sleep next to the cleanest person in camp! P.S – English squirrels are not ugly or stupid Nathan.

Thanks again Chris! Tammy!

Group picture

Group picture

Volunteer blog- 26th August – 6th September 2013

Christina Bohle, September 2013(Germany)

If you don’t have much experience with mixing cement, building a wall and working in a team-you will be an expert in these things after the building week J

The first day of my building week started near a little farm. Our task was to repair a broken wall around a water tank. After we took all the stuff out of the car (wheelbarrows, shovels, spades, buckets, gloves and so on…) we were beginning to get sand, collect stones and mix cement. Chris and Matthias gave us the necessary instructions and helped us where they could. I was surprised about the good community spirit and the teamwork. During the morning donkeys, cows and goats came to visit us and drank water near the wall. One farmer told us that a big snake is living in the wall. Unfortunately we didn’t see it. The time during the building week went so fast. At 12h00 we went back in our little camp to have a siesta. We ate something, talked about our activities and enjoyed the desert life. After siesta we worked for another2/3 hours at the wall. When it was evening we prepared food, ate at the fire, drunk a beer (better a warm beer than no beer) and talked Chris’s experience and Mattias life with 15 childrenJ The most important experience in the building week was for me to build a wall with a group in a short time with so much fun and to stay so close to the Damaras and learn a little bit about their culture and habits.

ImageGisela Binder (Germany), September 2013

I am writing this in my second week sitting in my sleeping bag sipping a coffee and watching the sunrise over a beautiful desert landscape. Meals are prepared by two persons from the group, rotating every day. Of course, Chris helps a lot with the actual cooking on open fire as most participants don’t have any experience with this.

Building week was really good, the group very quickly worked hand in hand, moving rocks, mixing cement, repairing a broken wall surrounding a water tank.

When we arrived at the farm, we were surrounded by a whole group of children, who also came back the following day to watch us with great interest. All day, long lines of goats came and went to get water from the troughs on the other side of the water tank.

Yesterday was the first day of tracking week. We left base camp with two jeeps and had our lunch break in a dry river bed. Just after lunch, we found some elephant tracks and dung which was rather dry and mixed with sand, not smelly. Excitement rose as we followed the tracks, and all of a sudden, turning around a bend in the dry river bed, we saw a herd of 3 adult and 3 baby elephants! When they became aware of us, they withdraw into the trees behind them. We climbed a small hill right next to the jeeps and tried to spot them in between the trees. It’s amazing how quietly elephants can move, but we heard some branches cracking every now and then. We waited patiently for about half an hour and were rewarded in so many ways, when first two adults with a baby came out into the open again, drinking from a water whole right in front of the rocks we had climbed, and shortly after, the other elephant with a one-year old baby and a three –year old came out as well. They took water from the hole and squired it out before they drank the fresh water that filled the hole again (Chris explained to us later that they don’t like stagnant water, they are quite fussy about it). It was a fascinating, breathtaking spectacle that nature delivered to us here, as we were watching in awe. I can strongly recommend participation in the EHRA volunteering project as it is a great way to come a little closer to the country, people and animals, and will give you a unique experience. Our guides, Chris and Matthias are very experienced, careful and absolutely professional in how they organized the trip. Thank you so much! :)

ImageRobin Demytteneare, September 2013

I’m sitting in a dried out riverbed, fending off a swarm of flies as I try to write this. After working and trekking for days in the hot desert sun with very limited shower possibilities, I don’t blame them for being so attracted to us. About 5 minutes ago, our lunch break was interrupted by a curious bull elephant stopping by to check us out. As we swiftly walked to the trucks, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are. For the umpteenth time today, I stand still at the fact that we were lucky enough to witness a group of elephants in their natural environment; feeding, drinking, playing and growling. We are here while, as Chris has reminded us multiple times, our friends and families are most likely sitting on a school bench or behind an office desk. This morning we were observing a herd on the sun-warmed rocks of a koppie overlooking the riverbed. As I listened to breaking branches and the uprooting of entire trees, I thought of the sheer power that these mammals possess. I thought back to a conversation I had with a local man in broken English and Afrikaans during building week. While he may have been slightly exaggerating about the viciousness and rampages of the elephants, the bent over windmill and broken gate hinges spoke for themselves. It did not take me long to realize that EHRA isn’t just building a couple of walls, but it’s protecting the locals and elephants from one another, ensuring that these giants of the desert and Damaraland people can live together harmoniously.

If you are hesitant about going on this project, don’t be. Do it and, at the risk of sounding cliché, you may embark on a life changing experience.

Image Georgie Wood, UK, September 2013

I have no idea what day it is and I roughly know what time it is, because the sun is high and hot. And this just suits me fine. This whole trip hasn’t just been about the elephants and connecting with people around me, it’s been about reconnecting with nature. The simple and pure way you get to live whilst with EHRA fills your soul. I feel so rich and warm for the time here. I recommend this trip for animal lovers, adventure seekers and for those who don’t know what they are looking for, because you will find it here.

ImageJutta Rymarczyk, Germany

I can’t add much to what people have already been putting down here. Still, knowing it’s a repetition; these two weeks belong to the most touching experience in my life. During patrol week, off course, it’s the animals and the amazing landscape; during build week it was knowing that our wall will contribute to harmony between farmers and elephants. However, it was also the children of the village, also-in contrast to the adults!-helped us a bit, e.g. shoveling sand onto the jeep is hard work. Also, I was glad to have some small boys with me, little things to play soccer. Shouting goal and beaming all over their faces, they made my day. I’d be great if they could continue with what EHRA is doing here, one day.

Thanks to EHRA and to the best guides ever, Chris and Mattias

ImageSeptember 2013, Rachel Kirk, UK

Sleeping mild both weeks is fantastic. Buy a warm blanket in Swakop to keep you warm whilst you stargaze from bed! I’ve been here 2 weeks and going home shortly, but have had little idea what day, date or time it is since we set off from Swakopmund. A true antidote to the hectic – style of “normal” life. Build week makes a great change to deskwork! And you soon get used to being covered in cement and sand with no way to really get clean! It’s also a fab way to get to know your workmates, and have a laugh together. In patrol week, the sense of open space is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The first sight of an elephant, truly in the wild is exhilarating and the chance to stand up on rocks, out in the desert just watching the herd is so peaceful and quieting.  Completely different from a ‘safari’ experience, and a million times better.

What’s useful to know? You can wash clothes at camp after build week, buying the powder between you in Swakop, warm beer is better than no beer, bring fewer things than you think, cooking is shared on a ‘duty’-2 people each day, bring snacks, don’t bother with dry shampoo – it doesn’t work in the desert and you won’t care anyway…..and finally, if you are thinking of booking, then do it, you will really love it.

Rachel – watching the fire at camp on patrol week with a beer (actually a cold one!)

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