Volunteer Project 22nd August-2nd of September

The team was building the elephant protection wall at Farm Okongwe, where elephants are frequent visitors and the wall is much needed. On Patrol week something very exciting happened, as the team came a cross a new, unseen herd at Huab, and interestingly some of the females don’t have tusks! According to EHRA’s Chris it seems they never grew for them!

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A group photo by the wall!

“Exhausted, hot, covered in flies, dirty like never before but couldn’t be more satisfied! We were on duty today so a slightly earlier wake up time was needed in order to prepare breakfast and tea and coffee, which is served in bed to the other volunteers. After a quick, enjoyable breakfast we walked the short trek to the building site to continue our hard work from yesterday. We’ve managed to drag some of the locals, especially the kids, to help with some rock moving and so on. It’s incredible how hungry you can get from building a wall and how sweet an orange or apple can taste.”

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Everyone is working hard. Picture by our volunteer Jane. 

 

24th August 2016

“The first morning after the first night is over! “Labour camp” at Okongue. We had some dogs circling the sleeping quarters at night, which looked a little bit scary in the light of a head torch, but turned out they are perfectly friendly and social in daytime – really just looking out for a friendly pat and some scraps from the food-waste pit.

Several people woke up with mysterious bites on their legs or arms – Johannes found the perpetrator (in his cone) still enjoying the warmth of the sleeping bag in the morning. After deciding the creature was not a tick, but a spider, we found many others just “hanging out” on the floor tarpaulin. We shook it out and it was declared safe for another night.

 

It was our “kitchen duty” day, so in between sourcing the local sand and natural stone on the barren slopes near camp, we did coffee and tea rounds, apple and orange break and later learned to cook on an open fire!

There was a group of local children who were fascinated by what we were doing and they edged closer and closer – friendly picking up trowels and spades and helping us build the wall. Their help was very much appreciated! They worked hard piling up suitable rocks and placing them on the wall and helping to cement them in place. It was great fun for us and for them too!

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Local children offered a helping hand. Picture by our volunteer Jane.

At the end of the day, the question of how to cool thorough heated and shaken through beer cans arose. The answer lay in the melted ice from the giant cooler boxes. Drained into a bucket, they freshened up our stock of Windhoek and Tafel Lager in no time!”

Debbie and Johannes

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26th August 2016

“Today’s day is packing day, so what that basically means is working hard from 8 till 11 and then searching for your stuff in the camp. As Tobi and I have been on duty, we had to get up at 05:45 and prepare the coffee and tea and set up a new fire. Although there were 5 cups still missing from the evening before we managed to “deliver” the brown gold in time. After breakfast everybody packed their stuff and almost everyone started to work at 8’ o’clock. Because there were only 5 sacks of cement left, our task was to go on rock run’s for about 2 hours when the other half of people were asked to keep on using the cement for building the wall around the water tank. This time we had a break in the camp for about “10 African minutes” and after working for an hour again we finally started to load the cars and trailers. It took about 1 hour to pack the entire camp back up and prepare the 4×4’s for the following 3.5h drive. We arrived at about 4 o’clock and we were on duty, we had to load everything off and unpack it in the base camp. This unfortunately included washing all the boxes, but luckily some other volunteers helped us. As soon as we were done we started preparing dinner for everyone. This was quite some work to do but apart from being the only one who could not immediately take the long awaited shower, it wasn’t that bad. When dinner was served duty ended with a relating evening.

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Picture by our volunteer Jane

Saturday 27th August

“Today, me and Karen were on duty, which means we had to get up early and make coffee and tea for everyone. After breakfast we started our trip to the next “city” called Uis. Even though there is a drought and we are in the middle of a huge desert they had a pool in Uis, and we had a refreshing swim. After that we bought  a ton of snacks at the local supermarket to survive the upcoming week. Furthermore we had a nice drink at the cactus garden coffee shop where they even had wi-fi, so we could have some contact with the outside world again.

On our way back we stopped at a Himba people souvenir shop. The Himba women have very interesting hairstyles and are incredibly good at making necklaces and carving wooden souvenirs. When we came home everyone just had a calm afternoon and Karen and I cooked stir-fry for dinner. Like every night we headed to bed early and fell asleep in out tree house under the bright stars.”

Fabi

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Sunday 28 August 2016

Karen

I am writing this on Tuesday, August 30, but am relegated to Sunday. Today was very fun and exciting- with many changes in geography – rocks, soil, and the many animals and plants we saw. Sunday was a base camp day. I woke up early before the alarm, as usual, and went to the ablutions, changed and when I got back to the tree house, Fabi was also up. Since it was Sunday, we had a reprieve from oatmeal or toast and were treated to scrambled eggs and back bacon. I broke the eggs- all 36 of them, with only one piece of shell in the mix. With Kaylee’s and Mathien von  Matheu’s (i.e the young one) help we fixed breakfast, after doing the coffee/tea to sleeping-bag-side routine. At this point, many more folks are awake or up before we bring the hot drinks. After our yummy brunch, Fabi and I cleaned up – he did an amazing job setting the fat off the fry pan we used for bacon. While we clean up, everyone else went off to camp chores – making fence, including moving some heavy equipment – resulting in something falling on Martin’s foot, luckily nothing broken. Also breaking up elephant dung for the compost for the garden, turning the compost – which I helped with after the kitchen cleaning, cutting back overgrown bushes along paths around camp – I cleaned up the trimmings, most of them, before quitting at 11 to rest before our lunch hour. Probably several other chores I don’t know about, the only other one I saw was rocks being hauled to the greenhouse/garden.

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Working with Elephant dung. Picture by our volunteer Jane.

After lunch we were free to enjoy the afternoon. I just read part of my book – a novel set during the bush war in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia. Late afternoon Jane, Martin and I hiked up to the spring – an amazing site in the desert, but chock-full of animal dung. We went on beyond the spring through the river, then found elephant track and followed them on up to the top of the rocks, amazed that elephants can climb up there. I had to leave early to go back to prepare dinner, and luckily found the route to come back down. Dinner was a braai – lamb steak, sausage and Greek salad; also veggie patties for the vegetarians, but they fell apart. I was sous-chef to Mathien von Mathieu – master of the grill. Rachel had driven up with her dogs and had dinner with us, bringing dessert, which I didn’t eat. After dinner elephant tracking briefing.

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Monday 29th August

“After build week, Base camp came to represent all the luxuries of “home” – not just showers (bliss!) but also a comfortable upstairs bedroom with a much-loved view. Last night’s home environment was established by the presence of Rachel plus Zulu and Zanzi, her instantly-popular dogs. Our evening was of course marred by a mound of very filthy braai washing-up.

Very pleasant night’s sleep – because the incredible noisy baboons had opted to sleep elsewhere. So rising early to make the morning drinks was just in fact a joy. It was a lovely morning. Over breakfast we talked more to Rachel about EHRA’s funding, whether there might be some common ground between Jane’s  extensive fundraising/philanthropic networking the USA and EHRA’s more expansive ambitions on the ground. The Americans have gone crazy over elephants, so genuine fundraising efforts for pachyderm project have a very receptive audience. The conversation began, and will doubtless continue.

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Picture by our volunteer Jane.

For us it was a frantic scramble to get everything sorted and enter onto the vehicle for our safari, or into the white box. We headed out along the riverbed and soon found ellies- an unnamed male B2 and then a herd. As we stooped for lunch beneath a rock face in the valley, a herd of 7 walked past us with great grace. Lunch was the same as ever: “only one piece of cheese and one piece of ham each”. We trundled on – saw a male, Cheeky, plus a jackal (black backed).

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Camped in an attractive spot where we made a rather successful Thai curry of beef. Why does a day of driving tire everyone out? They were in bed early – and we were delighted to hand the washing up on to others!”

Martin and Jane

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Picture by our volunteer Jane

 

 

Volunteer Project 8th-19th August

The volunteers were building a wall at the White Lady monument, which is a famous tourist site, a rock painting deep in the Brandberg mountain. Elephants also like to visit the place often, so the wall was needed. They managed to finish the wall, great work! On Patrol week the team observed that Mama Afrika’s herd is still split, and there is no sign of a real Matriarch yet.

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Great job! 

Build week- Day one

Tuesday 9th August

We woke up at Base camp, having been eyed up by a troop of baboons the night before, and we were served with a delicious selection of tea, coffee and possibly not hot chocolate.

As soon as we were packed up, it was off to the build camp near White lady rock. We were welcomed to our new home by a bull elephant walking past, followed by two more soon after.

Once lunch had been served, with some expertly cut cucumber (thanks Simon), it was back to work on the wall around the soon-to-be water tank.

It’s safe to say that, at about 4:30pm, neither Simon, Chris or Nicole covered themselves in glory when faced with their first close(ish) elephant encounter of the trip. Two bulls wandered to the entrance of White Lady Rock so the fearsome threesome decided to take a closer look armed with cameras. This is what they had come for. This is what they had been trained for.

Everything was going well. The two bulls were munching happily on some shrubbery and the three intrepid EHRA volunteers crept even closer to get that perfect photo, all three secure in the knowledge that they know exactly what to do if things turned south/went Pete Tong.

Sadly, all that training went at the window when one of the bulls flapped his ears, trumpeted and charged at us! All three thought of no one but themselves, turned and ran for their lives. Simon decided the best course of action was to hide under a coffee table. Chris weighed up his choices of outpacing the elephant and ran straight up the car parked. Nicole? Well “I was thinking about climbing up this little hill”. Sadly, this thought did not lead to any other action other than running and screaming wildly for her mother. What her mother was going to do to help her avoid a rampaging elephant is anyone’s guess.

The duty team came back to find that another bull had given our camp the once over.

Dinner of chicken and bloody butternuts was served. Took bloody ages! Worth the wait though. Plus, we finally got through Marie’s sweet sweet sweet wine. On to the proper stuff now……

Slance!  “Looking good…..tasting good”.

Simon (Ireland), Nicole (Swiss), Renate(Germany)

P.S. The elephant had given us a mock charge and had only taken two steps before watching us “stupid bloody tourist” run around like headless chickens.

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A gorgeous young bull

Wednesday 10th August

Build week day two

After the best breakfast ever, we headed to the White lady. When we arrived the elephants drank all our water. We now know how the natives (local Namibian farmers, the residents) feel. Work was delayed while we obtained more sand and water. Now work begins. The group has divided into two, the hunter gatherers and the builders. Things are going much faster today.

Rumour is Matheus has a bet going with Hamish and Nathan that our project will be done, tomorrow by five o’clock. This means that rock team was energetic and spirited after lunch.

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Simon and Mari working together to get some big rocks!

At the build site, Mario became a master miscen, Nathan became a master stone lifter and Matheus outworked all the volunteers. All fifteen of us were working to keep up with Matheus.

To and from the rock runs many world problems were solved. Last but not least Simon gets to learn about the luxury products.

After dinner we had a fantastic comedy night. Nina was the main act and told us the “best” jokes ever.

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Loading the car with rocks

Tessa from Belgium

Mari from Nothern Norway

Craig from St Louis, USA

 

A day off – Friday 12 August 2016

Today we are at Base camp, which is located between 2 rock paintings. There are 2 troops of baboons, and this morning, we were awakened before daybreak by the baboons hooting and calling between the two troops. Then calls and exchanging of rocks.

We’re a diverse and compatible group, representing many countries: Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain, Portugal and The US. Surprisingly, everyone is here solo, except for Craig and Lois (from the US). We’re assigned, in groups of 3. To “duty”, this means cooking and cleaning. The common language is English, though several in the group speak German, there’s a little of that also.

One of the pleasures of this adventure so far is that we’ve seen elephants every day. Yesterday 2 came to the base camp and drank out of our tank. Craig and Lois were in this same part of Namibia 7 years ago and saw no elephants. The difference is that several water dams have been built and the elephants know they can get water nowadays – makes a huge difference.

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Young Matheus and Tessa cooking pap, a traditional southern African dish made mostly out of mealie meal. 

Evenings: Lots of good chats plus some wine and beer. This created a term: “chrissing” because Chris up-chucked all over Lois sleeping bag. Not to worry, he cleaned up! Dan had his first beer, which he was bullied into drinking.

 

Chris(Netherland), Dan (UK) and Lois(US)

P.S. After we finished building the entrance for the water tank, we hiked up (8km round trip) to see the White Lady rock painting. On the way, we saw four elephants browsing on the vegetation.

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Saturday 13 August 2016, Uis

On Saturday we went to the small town Uis to fill up our food storage and to cool down in the swimming pool from Brandberg restcamp.

At 6 o’clock we had to get up and we left the base camp at 8. In Uis we went to the supermarket and everyone got a pack of wet wipes and snacks. In the rest camp some of us (the bravest) went swimming in the pool, some even went 3 times in the pool (“hust” Simon “hust”). For lunch we ate in the restaurant of the Brandberg rest camp.

As we came back to the basecamp our laundry was nearly done and our clean cloth were hanging all over . I went to have a little rest, because in the night I woke up because Chris was not feeling that good and threw up on Lois sleeping bag. Poor Chris.

Others were fitter than me and hiked up the hill next to the Base camp. I was on duty together with Sidonie and Mario. We cooked potatoes,pumpkins, filled peppers and springbok meat. After and while the dinner we drank  wine and beers we bought from Uis. After dinner we had a little party and we said goodbye to Hamish and danced with old and young Mathias. Also we played a game with two bottles which made people look like they are completely drunk. I didn’t like the game and so I went to bed.

Nina from Switzerland

 

P.S. Dan’s entry into the pool was “special”. It resembled a shy gazelle approaching the pool only to turn into a hippo as it hit the water. He did much better second time.

P.P.S. We lost a couple of adorable “star gazers” (Nina and David) and they were awfully cosy the next morning ( I don’t know how to write in English).

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Nina working hard on building week

On Thursday we were straight in the building week. Matthias the small one tried to finish the wall. He wasn’t able to finish though, due to water problems. We got very far though. Nathan was pretty strong. Mario mixed cement and Nathan was building while the others were busy doing rock-and sand runs. In-between we needed refreshments but the small shop was out of drinks. So we just had to stick to warm disgusting calcium less still water..lol! By the way cement is pretty sticky, but it was all good. It was hot as hell! I wish we would have had a pool there.  We did a break at 11 o’clock with apples and oranges. We all wore gloves  for protection. Just Matthias lived dangerously  and was backhanded! He kept saying it was freezing but hell no it was boiling hot and sunny. Going solo is a pretty decent tune though.  Dinner was 10/10 because we did it. Feeling very self confident. We had a lot of black labels and rum so the bees were even more annoying. Nathan and me didn’t climb the mountain this time due to a lack of time. In the night Mario woke Hamish up because he thought donkeys nearby were ellies, hehe giggles. So the “elephants” were donkeys so we were all good.  I like Nathan by the way. Dan is pretty decent as well. I think I need to shave my beard though. I am looking forward to using a toilet with a flush. I need to pee now so peace out.

David (Swiss) and Nathan(Swiss)

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David and Sidonie by the Elephant protection wall

Sunday 14th August

A lazy day for team “luxury items”. After  a late night sending Hamish off in style, we had a whole hour to lay in.

Breakfast was amazing, David’s eggs. . as was the bacon, once David had realized he needed to add cooking oil. The rest of the morning was relaxed. Except for Simon to pack very long.

Yet another “highlight” in Simon’s already elegant life happened in front of Nicole “The Giggle” Zwahlen. Distracted by a hole in Nicole’s shorts, Simon wasn’t paying enough attention to where he was treading. Nicole remembers seeing a hairy sweaty man bouncing twice off rocks before setting in an embarrassed pile of pain.

They promptly sought help from qualified nurse, Mari, and he was told in not so many words to “stop being such a jerk”. Turns out nurse Mari graduated from the school of tough love and has a family history of torture.

While Simon was bouncing his fat ass of rocks, apparently 6 elephants came down the river bed to drink. But who cares about that?

Chris is still being ridiculed for ‘chrissing’ over Lois’s sleeping bag.

 

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Adorable baby

 

Volunteer Project 25th July-8th August

25th 6Tuesday 26th July 2016

“After a windy and cold night on the platform in the basecamp, we stood up at 06.00 and started heating up water in the kettle for tea and coffee. After 15min, everybody got their hot coffee or tea near his/her sleeping bag. 06:30 am the porridge was ready and everybody wanted to get a bowl full of it for breakfast. During preparing breakfast, I found a dead something on the cutting board, maybe it was a …..Scorpion. We put it in a transparent cup to show it to everyone. After breakfast, we were packing our light packing for the “build week” and started to load our bedrolls on the vehicles. In the trailer we loaded 22 bags of cement, the 4 wheelbarrows, shovels and buckets. Before we left, we spotted a Go-away bird (kwevoel *). We arrived 1, 5 hour later at our campsite near the build site and started setting up the camp.

We went to the same place the group before us had been two weeks before. At 11h00, the setting up of the camp was already done, and we had an early lunch, leftovers from Monday and sandwiches. Finally at 12h30 we went to the build site and started with some rock –and sand runs until Big Mattias came back with the water trailer. At this point we could start with mixing cement. Until 16h30 we made a good advance and we the duty team, had to go back for cooking dinner. In the beginning everything went well. As we were missing the chutney (required in the recipe), we had to start improvising. We mixed mango, orange juice, orange jam, soy sauce, peri-peri, brown sugar and curry powder. For the perfect chutney, only vinegar was missing. Nobody remarked any difference and was happy with our stuffed chicken and mashed potatoes.”

Source: Essential Illustrated Wildlife Guide to South Africa Sunbird, *Voels von Suid Africa, SASOL

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Wednesday 27th July 2016

“This morning we had the first signs of an elephant. Last night a bull walked around the edge of the camp, broke a few branches and left some tracks that I saw this morning. Mattias was apparently shouting to gently chase the elephant, but most of us slept through it (somehow). When we reached the build site the water tank/trailer had tipped. The bull had gone for a drink. It really does demonstrate why we are doing the project, as the elephants are persistent and strong.

We have been using the same site for rock runs (just before the camp site) but today we tried another site, only a few hundred metres from the build site. It was a pleasant change but was nowhere near as good as our normal site.

For dinner we made lamb tagine, which was technically simple but had unexpected problems. Someone forgot to pack the rice so instead we had pap, which tastes like a mix between couscous and mash. According to Hamish it wasn’t the best pap, it felt quite heavy. The tagine was delicious though, if I do say so myself. ”

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Thursday, 28th July 2016

“Oh we just had a nice chat while waiting for dinner-so I postponed writing the blog. But now: There’s nothing like preparing coffee and porridge on a rather cold winter morning with a dedicated and enthusiastic co-chef like Nathan.

After that, rock-runs, and sand-runs and lots of cement mixing as usual, that was just an ordinary, satisfying day at the building site until…….Well, until we ran out of water and cement. Because it took a couple of hours to replenish, those of us new in the crew had the chance to hike to the White Lady Rock painting with “Jurgen” our guide. This took us about 2 hours and we were happy to be hiking at this time of the day, since the sun had already disappeared behind the mountain ridge and it was nice and shady.

We returned to the entrance of about 5pm and walked back to our camp right away, since the tools had already been packed by the others. Thus, we had a bit of real “tourist experience”.

By the way, sadly, Tiko, our beloved camp princess, had left with three visiting ex-volunteers for Windhoek earlier that day. We miss her boundless good spirit and her laughter! Safe trip Tiko!

Back at the camp, lovely dinner, generous drinks and jolly company around the fire!”

Nathan (Sui) and Urte(Ger)

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29th July, Friday, 2016

“It was our last day at the build site, so we got up at the normal time and headed to the site. Some stunning rocks were caught such as Elanor. Everyone was working on full cylinders and we managed to finish a decent part of the wall by the time we had to leave. It was a tough but enjoyable week and we all have a lot to be proud of. The toughest part however was saying good bye to Marylin, the rock that stole my heart.

We headed back to camp to have lunch and pack up. This is when we were lucky enough to see a bull elephant walk near to camp. After all the excitement went down as we left for base camp.

Sadly a baby elephant had recently passed away, so a detour was taken to find the baby and confirm this. This involved travelling through school to ask some questions. This was where a woman pointed at younger Matheus and made a threatening gesture. The group contest is that it was a spurned lover. Matheus denied all claims.

Sadly it was the baby elephant that passed away.

We headed back to camp. I overdosed on peri-peri and almost died. I saw light at the end of the tunnel. We played Frisbee in the evening which caused pain and hardship was felt.”

Daniel Altman, 2016

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30th July

“It was the start of our day off which we would spend in Uis. First of all we had to get the fire started for breakfast. Jorieke and I had trouble getting the fire going. For a second we were worried we wouldn’t succeed. It was our first day without porridge, instead we had toast that day.

We then packed up and got ready to go to Uis. Here we all rejoiced at the chance to have Wi-Fi. We all called and spoke to our family and friends. We also enjoyed a nice lunch at the rest camp ( a lovely break from sandwiches). There was a pool at the rest camp but only two people were brave enough to go for a swim. The rest of us enjoyed the sun and food.

The night Dan helped me with dinner as Jorieke spent an extra night in Uis. We made springbok leg with gem squash and potatoes. Dan was in charge of piercing and seasoning the potatoes, but this led to many injuries as Dan cannot handle a fork apparently. Despite the mess Dan and I made the dinner turned out to be delicious. Hamish also made apple crumble for dessert which was a great end to the night.

There was a lot of washing up left to do that night. I can’t imagine the next duty team were too pleased.”

Katarina Kovijanic

P.S. Apologies for the messy writing. It was written in the car.

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31st July, Sunday 2016

“This morning we could stay until 6h45 in our warm sleeping bags. Luckily, we had no porridge today, but instead scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. After that different start into the day we started to clean up all our black boxes and the tent. Suddenly while chilling in the base camp and on the tree house 6 elephants walked by. They came from the river bed next to camp and wanted to drink from the elephant water point. It was the Small Ugab herd!

One of our group member (Sidonie), who was standing in the elephant path was very surprised, because there was no sound coming from the herd. Such a big animal, but so silent!!!

Nevertheless, she reacted quite well: stood calm and walked back to camp.

After their short drinking break they continued their way down the river bed. Such an amazing visit!!! After lunch in the afternoon we slept, played Frisbee, hiked to a spring and packed our backpacks for the patrol week.

For dinner we had braai and cheese macaroni. Chris joined us and prepared us for the following week on patrol.

After we played some games around the camp fire, we went to bed. We are looking forward to see much more elephants!!!”

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1st August, Monday 2016

“We started this morning at main camp, me (Menno) and Renate were on duty. Because Renate is not able to write the journal in English, I’m going to write our contribution. After tea, coffee and porridge we were quick to pack all our stuff, cause today was our first day of patrol!!! Not long after we left the main camp we ran into elephants. The group we met was G6. First we checked out the baby elephant that died and that we saw earlier. The other elephants were in the area and showed interest in the dead baby. It was beautiful to see but also sad that the group had lost the little one. We traveled along the river and visited the White Lady Lodge, where we went to the toilet and bought some beer. Close to the lodge in the wetlands we found the old Medusa. She was “dead” in the middle of the road. We were told it was just a thing for her to die in such a spot. She laid peacefully on the road. There was no sign of struggle. She was just tired and laid down. Even though she had laid there a while, she was still mostly intact. The lack of big birds of prey in the area showed itself. We looked for lions, also later that day. But they hadn’t smelled Medusa yet. We drove further on to follow some fresh lion tracks. We found some fresh tracks…but no lions. We lunched under a big tree. Chris brought us to a beautiful place higher from the river bed by the rocks. Renate and I cooked Thai beef curry. I must say it was a success🙂

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2nd August

“This was the best day ever! But let’s start from the beginning! In the morning it was very cold and all our sleeping bags were wet, because of the dew and the coast, which wasn’t so far away. The mountains were covered by clouds the whole morning and even during the day the sun wasn’t as hot as yesterday. Unfortunately it was quite windy from time to time. Apparently the weather in the desert can change very fast.

We didn’t drive too long until we found fresh elephant tracks. Before we ran into them, we decided to stop for making a “pinkel pause”. The “girls’ restrooms”, behind a bush.  Chris pointed out, were like 50 meters away from our vehicles close to the rocks. Before four of us started to pass over, Chris told us to climb rocks, if an elephant would come. We were already a bit afraid, but nevertheless we started to hide ourselves behind the bushes. I was already ready, when I suddenly realized the silence around me only surrupted by the shouting “climb the rocks, climb the rocks” by the rest of our group, who were already again inside the vehicle. Suddenly we the four girls behind the bush (without pants), saw three elephants running through our both vehicles directly forward us. We were just staring, because we heard too late the shouting of our group. One girl of us (so she told us later) even wanted to finish her pee. Finally we understood and climbed (more or less high) the rocks, watching how fast an elephant is able to run. We were so afraid, but luckily the elephants just crossed the road and all of a sudden they were gone and we were safe. Wow! The next time we will think twice before going to the toilet. The whole group was laughing at us and we are still laughing with them.

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“After having lunch, we took a very nice way through an immerse field of grass. It was so lovely and exciting! Finally we found the elephants again and observed them for quite a long time. The elephant baby was so lovely. It played and tried to do a handstand obviously. It was amazing! It was so cute. At the end of the day, after having a very good pasta carbonara (made by Nathan and me), Chris showed us the stars, when we were sitting around the fire. It was such a nice day! Thanks EHRA!”

Manu

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Volunteer Blog 13th-24th June

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Volunteers on their way to see the elephants!

This happy group of volunteers continued the work of previous group on building the elephant protection wall at farm Otjongundu. On elephant patrol week they were privileged to see Voortekker with younger bulls and Mama Afrika’s herd as well as other wildlife such as ostriches, black-backed jackals and different antelopes. As it comes to desert elephants interestingly, H2-herd is back in the Ugab area again. The volunteers seemed to enjoy their time, and they even had time for some yoga led by Selina, a volunteer from Germany! Working at a farm is not always easy, as there might be some distractions….but let the volunteers tell their stories:

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Group photo by the wall!

 

Tuesday, June 12, 2016

“Tuesday morning we woke up at 05:45 am since we were on duty. We started the fire and prepared tea and coffee for everybody including this porridge we didn’t enjoy. I will never ever eat it in my life. I prefer it with milk and fruits instead. But since we started the day in such an unbelievable place, this was not a problem at all.

We prepared and loaded the cars. But still had time to take some pictures of this wonderful place at the base camp. Approximately around 09 am we were ready to start towards our building site. But luckily, Hamish forgot the spare tire for the van, so we had to go back and pick it up from the camp. On our second attempt to leave the camp we had a magical moment: we saw the elephants of herd G6 passing by the camp on their way to the Ugab river valley.

We arrived at the White Lady painting around 11 am. and directly started to build up our campsites in a valley nearby, beautifully situated next to the Brandberg Mountain. We had lunch and afterwards started our working at the building site. This was quite a lot of fun, because every participant did their very best for the success of our work. In particular we created a new foundation for the water tanks – at least we started it. We went back to the campsite earlier and there EHRA showed their competence in providing really delicious food for so many people. Even we were able to prepare an excellent meal with chicken and butternut for the group.

Later on the evening ended in a relaxed way while sitting around the fire……..”

Friedhelm and Martin (Germany)

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Wednesday, June 13 2016

“We woke up at 06h00 to prepare the breakfast for everyone…..We started with making fire with dry baby wipes from the day before. This burned very well with the small wood. For the porridge, we cooked less oats than the morning before because some of us hated it and still hate it. So for some of us, the day started with frustration…but with a smile on the face for the majority.

At 8 o’clock we started with carrying stones, mixing cement, sand runs – always trying to follow the rules, which means: no beer at lunch for Fred, using the right shovels for mixing cement, learning how to lift rocks without breaking your back, not using these soft and lovely wheel barrows to carry rocks.

On our first break which was supposed to be short became longer when we realised that we ran out of water. So we had to wait for Mattheus who went to refill the container. Then, when the water arrived we hardly came back to work and make cement again to build a foundation for water tanks. At 12:30 we went for lunch, which was the perfect timing because we became to suffocate under the sun of noon. After eating, we rest in the freshness and shade under the roof.  None the less, some of us had enough energy to climb the mountain next to the camp.

So in the afternoon we continued with our work. We started in the morning till it was time for dinner. Fred was happy now because it was already 5 o’clock and he was allowed to drink a (not so cold) beer🙂. We cooked lamb tagine for the meat eaters which took 1½ hours on the fire – too long for the empty stomachs around the fire. The vegetarians had lentils instead of meat which was ready after 25 minutes but they were kind and waited till everybody had something to eat. Was a perfect dinner to end this amazing day at Brandberg Mountain.”

Maren and Louisa

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Local residents of the farm

 

“There are some seriously confused roosters around here, the action kicked off at 2:50 a.m., then they realised their mistake by 3 and went back to bed unlike us. The duty team arose at 5:45 to commence preparation, Mattias was instantly promoted to porridge captain, much to our relief, the decision was justified on the basis that we all got to enjoy porridge without sand. Breakfast passed without any events and it’s now 07h30 and we have only been told off 5 times – we are pleased with our achievements.

The day’s work begins, three rock runs were completed. We were all surprised at how excited and possessive you could get about rocks. We all look for different things when searching for a special rock – the good news is that they come in many different shapes and sizes, so there was a rock for everyone.

Ashleigh loves big rocks…

P.S We had to go for a hospital run and got stuck in the sand.

The end!”

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Zoe got stuck in the Damaraland traffic jam!

 

“Shifts were also taken in cement mixing as everyone learnt their own style, under Jill’s guidance. And the wall steadily grew in size as Matthias stoically masterminded its construction. For a change lunch was cheese, ham and salad sandwiches and leftovers, then during a post meal snooze the farmer arrived requesting a lift to the hospital for a pregnant lady. All was well and we were able to have an extended siesta as Hamish turned into an ambulance man. As we grasped the opportunity to improve community relations, by way of thank you they stole our beer out of the truck! It’s no wondering the locals love EHRA!

Upon return from his good deed Hamish led a party on a sand run. We managed to get stuck in the riverbed with a full load. Hamish’s eco-training immediately kicked in as he tried to phone his mom.  Alas no reception, so Ashleigh stepped into the breach – positive attitude and innovation saved the day.”

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Selina, David, Alice and Zoe have time to smile for the camera in the middle of carrying rocks!

Thursday 16th June 2016

“The lack of signal and Wi-Fi combined with being in the most remote and beautiful places just brings us closer to nature. Today is the last full day of building week, surprised of how far we have come, currently at 4 fact!

Day was one of warmer morning’s hard works – blood, sweat and tears but worth every moment. Great food – porridge and coffee – everyone actually wakens early with duty. Pair Alice did a great job fire making. She was very proud. Good job – lunch was ham/cheese sandwich dinner chicken and dinner was chicken moambe – delicious, the peanut butter was an interesting ingredient. Vegetarians vs. carnivores. It is an incredible terrain, dry desert, great, dedicated, very hardworking and passionate about the task -people, young folks and so much energy in a group. I am privileged to meet and work with them.

Scorpions, spiders and lizards are just some of the unique species we find during rock collection, making sure we return the rock to protect the individual from the killer sun. At the end of the day we were all excited for a cold beer and amazingly good food cooked over the fire. We finished the productive day with an hour of yoga before dinner, it was a peaceful end to the day.”

From Alice and the “annoying snorer”

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Our volunteer Selina led the beautiful yoga-moment in the dusk

Monday 21st June 2016

“My second patrol week and it just gets better and better! After tracking for 2 hours we found a mixture of individuals: an adult cow named Medusa and Roo (who fostered Madiba the baby male), as well as Tsaurab and Voortrekker the 2 males. These individuals do not make up a herd as they immigrate throughout. The usual aspect of these individuals is that 3 unknown males were present with them and viewing their behavioral differences towards us and the cars were particularly interesting

Voortrekker is a beautiful bull, with the largest tusks I have ever seen. He walked between the cars allowing us the opportunity to get close.

After lunch we located the elephants, but doing it by foot. We walked up the diverse landscape of rocks to view the elephants from a different angle, it was a highlighting moment.

Fight off between a dog protecting his goats and the elephants was amazing, continuous barking and head shaking concluded in the elephants relocating.

Sitting by the fire, sharing our thoughts under the stars, what a way to finish the day.”

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Voortrekker and the boys

 

Tuesday 22nd June 2016

“That was an amazing day!!!

In the morning we’ve seen the big males who were chilling in the sun. Then we drive for a long long long time without seeing nothing at all..In the afternoon we went to the riverbed and this was the best moment of the day and for me of the patrol day week. We were standing between a huge group of elephants (twenty I guess)!

They came very close to us and one touched Hamish! It was an incredible moment.

Then we went to a lodge in the desert to get some beer with the group (who were in the car of the big Mattheus) and then we just told silly jokes until the sun goes down.

Thanks a lot for this journey, this was for the moment the best that I ever had.

Frenchie girl, Zoe

P.s Sorry for my English, I will try to get better🙂

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Elephants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Project 30th May-10th June

 

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What a great journey once again! On Building week our volunteers worked very hard, and almost finished a wall in Otjongundu! The new group is already there continuing the work. On Patrol they were lucky to see many different elephants, and funny sightings like sleeping Bennie. Many elephants were still around EHRA’s Base Camp. Our volunteers together with EHRA staff also helped on their Patrol week in the Ohungu/Otjimboyo conservancy annual game count.Thank you for Rhiannon and Louise for sharing your thoughts with us!

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Rhiannon carrying a rock on Building week

Patrol day 1

We got packed up this morning and left Base camp at 8 am. Everyone was excited to be starting out on patrol week after last nights’ briefing with Chris. By 9:15 we were looking at a big lone bull elephant named Bennie. As we turned the corner and first caught sight of him, I actually thought he looked dead! That would not have been a good first encounter!!! Luckily, he was just taking a well earned rest after travelling a very long way. We watched him for about 15 minutes – he wasn’t bothered at all by our presence. What a privilege. In less than 30 minutes, we then found ourselves watching 2 herds together on the river bed – the G6 herd and the Ugab small herd. The G6 herd were busy drinking water from the ground. We sat and watched quietly, and just before we left a six year old bull calf called Tremor came towards us, quite close and headed into the bushes. We also saw some kudu, oryx and a black chested snake and a eagle along the way and Chris/ Mattias pointed out various tracks including lion, leopard, hyena and rhino.

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Bennie the bull taking a nice nap

 

We are now all set up in our base camp for the first night. What a fantastic first day though – we were so lucky, and can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings! For now we relax on our bed rolls and discuss the day over a cold bottled Windhoek Lager, while we wait for our caborana. I don’t think anyone will be very late to bed tonight, and I am looking forward to waking up early to make the breakfast, while the sun comes up in this breathtaking spot.

Rhiannon Swannell, UK (35)

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Louise with Young Matheus

 

Tuesday 7/6/16

This entry comes on day 1, post-apocalypse. Against all the odds, there was a thunder storm last night. Stunning to look at when it was a few miles away, but it soon caught up with us. Everyone was peacefully laid out on the ground tarp falling asleep when the winds and rain descended upon us. It took maybe 5 minutes for the tarp over our heads to cease having any effect. Cirka 11 volunteers running around in the pouring rain, diving under cars, huddling together for protection – all while big Mattias slept on a few feet away. A lot of laughter and chaotic scrambling later – including Chris clambering up some rocks in nothing but his boxers – we all got some sleep.

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After packing up a soggy camp this morning, we continued to search for Mama Afrika’s herd. We finally found them in the Ugab riverbed, along with G6 herd, and some members of Ugab small herd not far away. We were so lucky to see all three herds hanging out in close proximity, with a bull elephant called (Bennie) showing off for us too. We had been searching for a specific young bull, Ullysses, who had a suspected bullet wound. We found him nursing his wound under a tree – he scratched it with his trunk, and blew dust and water over it to form a protective coating. It was clearly bothering him, but the good news is that he is walking normally and seemed at ease, so we were able to report that he is on the mend. We also found Bennie teaching another young bull, Ullysseb , the important life lessons – like how to shake a tree to get the very best pods down for snacking.

It was a great day, checking in with so many of the resident elephants in the Ugab, and lovely to see how well they are doing up close. We set up camp in high spirits, and the thunder storm of last night feels like a dim distant memory.

Louise Bond (London, UK)

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Volunteer Project 16th-27th May

IMG_336123 May 2016, Monday

Today was amazing, unlike any of the days before because we set on our trek across the desert. The morning began at the EHRA base camp, busy packing and trying to imagine what the day would hold. We have a diverse group of people (2 from Germany, 2 from Switzerland, 3 from England, 2 from Australia, and me from America. Some of us have been here before and others with various time spent in Namibia. Nevertheless, under the faithful guidance of Chris and Tate Matias we began our journey far from camp and deep into the heart of one of the deserts of Namibia. Chris impressed us with his knowledge of many of the wildlife and got us all to laugh with his light-hearted jokes. We saw a variety of birds, and animal tracks and spotted an Oryx and steenbok. However I think I speak for everyone when I say we were most captivated by the ever changing contrasting land of Namibia. Like the Namibian national anthem “Beautiful contrasting Namibia” we all experienced that this in fact is true. We spent the day in the car but felt as though we travelled the world. We saw many different kinds of vegetation and quickly saw how the vegetation became smaller and smaller, less and less until we were left with a variety of metamorphic and sedimentary rocks.  Rocks in all kinds of shapes, sizes, many and sometimes few. We reached our camping site and camped. We excitedly explored everything. We soon enjoyed our tasty pasta meal and I was surprised with being the chosen one to write the entry because I speak “American English” which everyone finds “amusing”.

I love my group and everything so far! Space as well!!

More later

Angela “The American and Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia”

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Tuesday 24 May 2016

An absolutely awesome day in all respects! After a “late night” when everybody was asleep by 8-15pm! We woke to a wonderful morning sunrise after a “flood lit” night!

Everyone was up bright and early and we sat off early – a reward for this group! Even Angela!

Chris took us through a “lunar” landscape of truly outstanding scenery which changed totally every few miles. Black, red, white, sand, rocks, valleys and mountains. Amazing! Everyone was speechless! At about lunch time we reached the Huab river to a scene of a bushfire that had ripped through the river beds. On the way we had seen a few oryx and springbok, but in the river bed we began to see greater numbers of ostrich, kudus, baboons and more springboks.

The river bed is also a stunning area of really unusual scenery. Unfortunately, the fire seems to have scared off the ellies, but just before setting up camp we spotted new tracks, heading in our direction, so we are all hopeful of a better “ellie” day tomorrow. Another evening of much hilarity and B.S around the camp fire we retired very happy and massively impressed by a stunning day.

Ian from Oxford area.

The old snorer!

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

This is already the last full day of this very event.

The team on cooking duty established a new record by beginning to serve coffee or tea a few minutes before 6 am! The group has become quite efficient establishing and breaking camp. We departed before 7h30 am and thanks to the excellent tracking skills of Chris and Mattias, we saw  H2-herd walking at a fast pace to a waterpoint where they stopped to drink. There’s  four vehicles from the Lodges carrying tourists , Chris decided to leave and look for another herd in the Huab river near Twyfelfontein. Driving in the dry riverbed, we spotted some species of wildlife. For me personally, the most exciting moment of the day happened when a zebra snake, a species related to be very aggressive and venomous spitting cobra crossed the road ahead of the leading vehicle. Chris and Mattias jumped out of the Toyotas and followed the snake. It turned back 180°and came, much to our surprise, back towards the road, then crossing it at great speed right under the vehicle I was sitting in. All this happened so fast that I didn’t manage to get the camera ready. Chris told me that there is a snake park in Swakop where I will go to get another look at this quite beautiful reptile.

Before lunch, we located herd H1 and after the 2 hour lunch break we soon found the herd again and we enjoyed watching these impressive animals at close range, feeding relaxed off the trees and bushes. Obviously, the baby elephants are always a joy to observe for, especially for those volunteers being at EHRA for the first time, and this was really and exciting day. For myself, even when I am a EHRA veteran (4th time here) meeting elephants is always a new and wonderful experience!

Urs Thierstein

Switzerland

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Wednesday 25 May 2016

“Life” spelled with a big “if” in the middle!!! And “if” everyday were to be like today. What a joy “life” would be! Waking up to the beautiful sunrise in the Namibian desert with fabulous group of people who are now friends. After breakfast track up ellies, and yes the day just gets better and better. They are indeed out to play just like a dream come true. We see them going about their business obvious to the pleasure they are giving us. Mother and babies are two hours pass before we need to find another camp and set up for the evening. Teamwork is the name of the game and everyone has played their part tremendously.  It will be really sad to leave and I’m sure I will do another trip with EHRA, hopefully their good work will continue and go from strength to strength.

Thanks a million to them from me and am sure on behalf of the fabulous Namibian ellies.

Lesley Hoggart

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Thursday 26th May 2016

Another day on patrol, another beautiful sunrise. I don’t know if EHRA picks these spots specifically so that I can sit up in bed, grab my camera and get some beautiful shots of the sun rising, but it seems to be working out that way. We only have a half day on patrol today, so no time to do the dishes, we just have to load up the car and get tracking! It doesn’t take long to catch up with a herd, and we have time to park alongside them, turn off the engines and enjoy the view. I will never get tired of watching ellies – they are so peaceful and graceful. It is mesmerizing. We were lucky enough to see a particular hungry bull with it’s hind legs and leaping to reach the high branches. Apparently it’s a very rare occurrence, and it was magical to see a creature so large hop up with such grace.

But patrol week didn’t end there – after a 2 hour drive back to base camp, when we think the dream is finally coming to an end, a herd of elephants walks straight into our camp! They walk up the riverbed, giving everyone in the tree house a great view, and then drink at the water point just around the corner, we are crouched behind a wall, holding our breaths and watching them completely at ease. Watching them interact just meters away, out of the vehicle, in the comfort of our Namibian home, is a perfect way to end our 2 weeks.

I’m lucky enough to be coming back next week. I haven’t even left base camp yet, and I already can’t wait to return. Thank you EHRA, for some unforgettable ellie encounters!

Louise (from London, UK)

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Volunteer Blog 2nd-13th May 2016

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Our group

What an adventurous journey once again. The group started a wall at Farm Horizon just outside Khorixas and got to around halfway ready. The current group continues with the wall at the moment. The First day of the Patrol week was very exciting: as the team was about to leave to look for the Elephants, Mama Afrika’s herd walked to our Base Camp to greet all the volunteers and staff members! There was also a little bit of sadness in the air, as the team together with Dr. Betsy Fox and the volunteers assisted Ministry of Environment and Tourism to assess a dead elephant on a farm near Khorixas. This is reflected in the blog stories.  Again this time our volunteers were a versatile, hard-working  group, all ages, all walks of life, from all around the world. Let’s let our volunteers tell their stories:

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There’s nothing like Campfire tea or coffee

 

“This was my first experience with EHRA and I will definitely be recommending this to my friends. The staff, food and volunteers were all great with a great international mix. Build week was very satisfying as we could nearly see the help we were doing, although I would have hoped for a few more build days to make it closer to a week than 3 days. Never the less I think we achieved a lot in our time, so I was very happy.

Patrol week was equally enjoyable, with Chris being a great teacher who was keen to answer our questions. I learnt and saw a great deal, even in the dry area around camp, including kudu and springbok. The elephant encounters were very close and personal, but I never felt in danger, thanks to the EHRA staff and guides, and camp was always comfortable.

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Elephant at sunset

I will especially remember our time with the elephant carcass found on a nearby farm. The chance to see the anatomy up close with Chris was fascinating, but it was most important to see what our work was for. Chris concluded it was likely shot by farmers, highlighting the importance of the wall building the week before. In this respect I would love to return and continue to contribute. Conservation is a field I hope to work in in the future, and EHRA has set an excellent example for how to go about it. I only wish I had more days building and a few less relaxing at camp, as that is what I intended for. Amazing 2 weeks, thanks to everyone.”

William Weston, 18

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This dead elephant was sadly most probably a victim of Human-Wildlife Conflict

“Last day in camp. It is so cold that I regret for the first time in weeks to not having bought a 3 season sleeping bag. So finally, winter is coming.

The last patrol week had its ups and downs. Especially the first day was a good example for that. Starting with having the long not seen Mamma Afrika herd in camp, we went to Khorixas to investigate a recently found dead elephant. Watching the herd passing through camp was for sure my best elephant experience with EHRA in the last weeks. Never have we been that close and seeing them enjoying our “Home Sweet Home” was an unforgettable experience. Later that day we spent hours around the dead body of a probably shot elephant. Not so much fun to be honest. But I guess it made us rethink the time we were building the week before. There is real danger to the elephants in Damaraland and it is important to help the farmers by protecting their water tanks and pumps.

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Mama Afrika’s herd visiting our Base camp!

We all are shocked by seeing a killed elephant. No discussion about that. But it is too easy to just blame the farmers. They are not well educated and often are forced to desperate means. Maybe this is the most important thing I learned in my 4 weeks with EHRA. It is not about elephants. It is about ELEPHANTS AND FARMERS.”

Tobias from Germany

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A wall completed by EHRA volunteers

 

” Had a good time with EHRA! Thanks, I loved sleeping under the stars, fire camp conversations, dinner, patrolling or building and waking up with the sunrise.

After 2 weeks with EHRA, we are upside down with this nice experience.”

Anne from Switzerland, from the French Part

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