28th January, Gracie and Pippa
Our group consists of 8 people-18 year olds to 48 year olds. A more different group you couldn’t wish to meet. From those in school through to working for 25 years+, most from all corners of the earth, including Canada, UK, Poland, China and Chicago.
We have bonded so well, we almost know each other as family and love every minute and can bicker like family too!
Finished off one incomplete well surrounding wall in days 1-3, and began another well project, 300 yards away by riverbed. From rock collecting (mainly big rocks by the boys and smaller by the girls!!!), to sand collection (fine in the morning)! To cement mixing – by hand! The record held by the girls –, to building i.e rock lying in a beautiful circle around the much precious water.
Mornings are breeze with less heat (!) and afternoons we are a little more reluctant! Drinking 6 liters of water a day to compensate.
Trip to the shop at 5:30pm is the greatest treat for a cider and beer at the end of our super hot days.
Whole experience so far utterly rewarding wonderfully stimulating-Love it. Elephant patrol here we come!
January 25th – 1st February Courtney Gallant, Canada
When I landed in Namibia in early 2012 I had a great sense of homecoming though it was the first time I’d ever been here. By the end of my second of eight weeks with EHRA last year, I knew I would have to come back again. There was no question about it; it was only a question of “when”, and here I am.
When I got to Namibia this time, that feeling of homecoming was even greater and I had an amazing familiar feel this time. I can’t help but smile when I look around me and see the landscapes that I hold close to heart. As I feel the sun on my skin, the sand under my feet, the wind in my hair. Being here my heart and soul feel calm and at peace, full of passion and drive. Reuniting with people at EHRA has been like seeing family who has been missing in your life. Meeting, getting to know and settling in with a new group of volunteers has been like making an all new family, all so very different, but all with a fierce love and devotion to a common cause that brings us all together and binds us. And what better way to get to know people then to work together, to live together, to push your limits, support and encourage each other. Everyone did their best this first build week, coped with the extreme heat, the tough physical work. Before long, everyone found wonderful ways to work together and get a lot of work done with a small group and four days. To see your hard work, your sweat and sore muscles, your cuts, blisters and bruises come together to create something tangible, something solid, something helpful, is so rewarding that you forget about everything else and feel deep pride at what you and your new EHRA family have managed to do on such a short time.
And now, after all of our hard work, a weekend of rest before the amazing chance to track the elephants through this beautiful land.
After two and a half days of traveling, cramped into the economy section of three separate airlines it felt great to begin he build process on our first day out. The mornings here are beautiful, with a cool breeze and he sun shining. It’s the kind of weather that makes me eager to work hard and accomplish something. We drove to the worksite with everyone cramming into the open top jeep, enjoying the cool wind and spectacular scenery, and began to work on a half-finished wall around a well. It was quickly apparent just how difficult the work could be, shoveling sand, hauling rocks, mixing cement; but with plenty of water and frequent breaks, the morning went by rather quickly. After a long lunch break to allow the heat to subside (not nearly as much as we would like), we got back to work with slightly less of a spring in our step. Hot water has never tasted better as we sweated it out into the late afternoon, and at the end of the day, there was never a more deserving time for a cool beer from the shop on the way home to camp. When you see a completed wall that you have built together with a group of people that only days earlier were total strangers, there is a bond that’s created that. It’s hard to define! People from such varied locations and backgrounds come together for one common goal, and to see the results of your labor brings a sense of bride and achievement that personally is unmatched by prior endeavors. You are truly helping people and the appreciation is apparent. I have met people that I will never forget, and I will always consider friends, no matter how many miles may separate us after this is all over. Patrol week is next, and I can’t wait to continue on with this lie changing experience.
Patrol week by Chris Project Manager
This was the first time that I had to do patrol alone, as Mattias our Namibian tracker was taking an extended vacation! I was a little nervous but was up for the challenge, and I have got to know the area really well over the last year, so thought I would give it a go solo! The first patrol of the year is always difficult as we haven’t been out in the field for 6 weeks and don’t have a good idea of elephant movements.
Luckily for me perhaps, Voortrekker, our largest and oldest bull in the area decided to help me out and wandered past base camp on Sunday afternoon! He was heading down river and I thought it more than likely that he was following the herds, so I could breathe a sigh of relief that I knew where to start looking the following morning!
The aim of the first patrol of the year is to do a general check on the elephants, make sure they are all present and check for new births. During the rainy season the elephants tend to move on to the higher ground and farm areas, and conflict is high, it’s always a worrying time as a few years ago 4 elephants were shot in this area. We had seen tracks going into the farm areas, but it seemed that most elephants were still in the river system as the rain still hasn’t come. The rivers here can flash flood during the rainy season and of course the elephants don’t want to get stuck in the mud! In fact the Ugab River is called so as ‘Ugab’ describes that noise that your foot makes as you pull it out of the mud!
We weren’t on the road for long before Voortrekker popped out of the bushes and walked straight past the car without a care in the world!! We carried on in search of the herds and a half hour later located them in the river bed close to Anixab where the local school is. We saw Mama Afrika Herd’s with their 3 babies all doing well, all the cows were present and correct. We stopped for lunch under a tree and relaxed whilst the elephants did the same.
Once the heat had subsided, (not that it felt like it!) we carried on driving up the Ugab. Just before we called camp for a night we found a young bull Tsaurab (meaning the one who goes softly, named because he slept in EHRA camp one night with Johannes who didn’t realize he had a sleeping buddy!). So having seen one herd and two of our bulls we decided that was a good days work and made camp overlooking the Ugab.
Tuesday started well and by 09.00 we had found Mama Afrika again and Voortrekker. We took some ID photos and then continued on our mission. Around 11.00 we found the three naughty bulls in the first wetland. These bulls are seasonal visitors and we think come from the Omaruru area every year when the Ana trees seed pods are ready for eating. They tend to stay until the rains comes. They had the best time pulling up water pipes and breaking fences in the EHRA camp over Christmas!
After lunch our luck got even better and we found one of the other Ugab herds, G6, and again all the elephants were there including their new baby. We took some ID photos and after an hour or so continued onwards.
On Wednesday I decided to head into the farm areas as we had seen tracks going over the main road and our one herd the Ugab Small herd had still not been seen. Last year during the rainy season they were also difficult to track and went into really remote mountainous areas. We drove a lot this day, but it seemed my luck was running out and we didn’t find any fresh tracks. I decided to head back towards the Ugab in case they were in the northern reaches of the area. Just before we made camp we saw Voortrekker again (I was starting to think he was checking up on me!) and being the gentleman that he is, he brought Bennie another one of our bulls with him!
Thursday am we saw all the elephants close together which was amazing! At one point we watched on in disbelief as a farmer chased them and then all the elephants ran off! Not wanting to disturb the elephants anymore and being pleased with what the patrol had accomplished we headed back to EHRA base camp for a much needed SHOWER!!!