Shopped around in Swakopmund for essentials – snacks, drinks, head torches, gloves, batteries….all ready for build week. Long drive north to base camp through desolate grey sandy country with a toilet break behind a well-placed dune and some time for throwing a ball around. Entered base camp through windy track with rough large red boulders, sleeping in tree and looking at amazing stars at night.
On Tuesday, packed up building essentials – shovels, cement, etc. and rations for the week and started off. The wall was about an hour drive away and within a day and a half, we finished the end of the wall that they had started last week – this had consisted of putting a final layer of rock on and sealing the top with cement.
We were able to use the same camp site that they had used the week before, so got camp set up relatively quickly and spent 2 nights there before moving to the next site.
Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning we had to lay the foundations for a new wall around a windmill. The soil (well, the surface of the land) is packed with rocks of all sizes, so we had to use pickaxes, shovels and hands to remove all the soil down several inches about 2 foot wide. Once we had done that, we put back all the rocks we had taken out plus many many more! However, as one team mate pointed out, we put them back in a more orderly fashion – very large on the outside, mid-size inside, and small to pebble size as filler, with a top coat of cement like icing a cake. It’s a lot like doing a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how many rocks we put in the wall, it didn’t seem to make a difference in the landscape.
As every other night we tried to sleep under our tarpaulin but on this Wednesday night we all woke up. It was a windstorm, which shook the tarp really hard and made a lot of noise. Everyone was waiting for the storm to stop to sleep again. After a while we build it up and slept under the sky full of stars. We hardly all still get a bit of sleep and were full of sand as never before in the week.
After the windstorm the tarpaulin was removed and we had to move the ground sheet under a nearby tree. We are making good progress with the wall and I am enjoying the physical work of collecting rocks, sand and mixing cement. The wall is more than a foot thick and can definitely keep the elephants out. I have mastered the art of getting the amounts of cement, sand and water right. I can also see when other people need water and sand.
By Saturday we were ready to head back to base camp, a.k.a Home Sweet Home. We saw a troupe of baboons on the rocks west of base camp, and they moved onto the rocks across the riverbed for the night. This put them right across from our tree house. There were lots of warnings that it would be a noisy night, and apparently many found it so. But it turns out I more-or-less sleep through baboon. At least until the morning, when I swear it sounded like they were disciplining the babies by torturing them. That, at least, is clearly what the babies must have wanted us to think, given that piercing screams at, I guess, being told to wake up.
Sunday afternoon several of us hiked up to the top of the rocks where the baboons had spent the previous night. It’s a great place to get a view of the area. You can see for miles in all directions. And we went shortly before sundown, so we could see the sun sinking behind those western rocks. The word awesome comes to mind (frequently on this trip). Since I had cooking duty Sunday night (grilled meats, roast potatoes, 2 kinds of squash) I left before the others to get started preparing. Willie, the incredibly sweet injury-prone adopted camp dog, had followed us all up, and he decided I shouldn’t go down alone, so he took me down. He was occasionally exasperated when I didn’t follow the path he chose, but generally was willing to re-adjust his route and take over leading again. He didn’t leave until he had me safely down. So I gave him an extra ear and chest scratching that night.
Hello my friends, I am Sophie and I have been at the EHRA project for 5 beautiful weeks. Every week was an awesome week on its own. I worked with great people! I think I can say we are all friends now. It feels better here than at home when I can be with my EHRA family.
I enjoyed every building week with a lot of hard work and great dinners. After my first building week I felt all my muscles when I was mixing the cement and collecting big rocks. The work got better and better after every week. I never had problems with the work. I can work more, faster and be better help for all now.
My first patrol week was so incredible and beautiful. I feel so free and happy, I think that it was on one side that we had the most beautiful landscape in Namibia and I spend my time with really lovely people. We counted two elephant groups, black rhinos, giraffes, kudus, zebras, oryx and baboons. Is there something that you can ask for more? NO! Every patrol week we had great adventures.
A big thank you to the EHRA team!!!
We also had the chance to help at the game count, but it is a tough thing on one side, but I am happy that we could help them. I also found new friends Franco and Thasima, two nice guys.
Today (25th June) our day started early as all of us was motivated to find “Mamma Afrika”, the EHRA herd. We had a much colder morning compared to the past days, so we are all sitting together to be really warm packed in the cars, that looks a little funny in my opinion because we are in Africa. Kieran and I sit behind in the car and were listening to music with a big smile on our faces – it was a really fun day.
After driving some time without seeing an elephants but with a lot of tracks, we drove up to a hill to have a whole view over the area. Mattias and I counted the elephants and were a little bit confused because they were throwing dust and were running and maybe angry.
The safest thing we could do was to sit at the koppie and take a look at what was happening. They were moving all the time; they were not able to stand still, most of the time we were only able to see trees moving or a head from an elephant in our way. That was such an awesome moment. We were able to look at them from a higher point out in car, a kilometre far from us. The two groups “Mamma Afrika” and “Ugab small” were happy to meet us. It was such an interesting and beautiful adventure to watch them.
Thank you very much for this time we had in Namibia, with the EHRA team. I enjoyed myself a lot, it is one of the best times I had in my life-maybe the best.
I hope I can come back.
So, it was my final week at EHRA waking up on Monday morning full of excitement on a cold Namibian morning. We load up the 4×4 with all the kit, food and people we need for the week of tracking. An hour later we end up leaving due to a fuel problem on the old girl (Mattias’ car!). But this doesn’t trouble us and we begin the trip full of excitement and anticipation for the week to come.
The tracking begins with sad news that a young male elephant had been shot as part of the conservancy quota. Our mission for this week then was to track down all the males and find out which had been killed to update the database.
We came across fresh, day old tracks by the side of the road. It was a male travelling alone. We spent the day going from farm to farm trying to pick up any clues about the direction he was travelling in. Finally we spotted an elephant shaped rock that actually turned out to be our elephant. It was an unidentified male from a different area, but he was very shy of cars and didn’t want to hang around, so we left him to his business and set off to make camp for the night.
The next day we set off to track a group of elephants which takes a through a very unused track. After being stabbed, scratched and beaten by every single branch we finally emerged 2hours later with an unhappy Chris as his paint job was ruined! We spend the next few hours finding tracks and after climbing a rocky mountain we spotted them in the distance. Unable to get close by the car Chris and Mattias set off on foot to get a closer look. All young males were accounted for.
The next day we set off to find “Mamma Afrika”. Spotting them from afar they are running and trumpeting. We are confused not knowing if there is a problem or not. Then Mattias begins to jump with joy “there is a new baby” he shouts. The elephants were most likely celebrating the arrival of a new baby. The rest of the day was an unforgettable blur of elephant encounters of which I will never forget. The little baby maybe only a day or two old and mother felt comfortable enough to eat and walk around right next to the car.
My week might have started with bad news that an elephant had been killed. But it ended with the discovery that a new life had been brought into the elephant family.
I would like to quickly say a massive thank you firstly and foremost to Chris whose hard work means that these amazing creatures have someone on their side and he makes these life experiences for others possible. Also Mattias for his joy and amazing tracking skills. And finally Christine who will make an amazing guide and who have all become great friends over this past month. So thank you everyone, I will never forget you guys or this experience of a lifetime!