EHRA Patrol week 24.06.2015
I’ve been keeping travel journal during my time with EHRA, and this week most entries start with “what a day on patrol!” I’m very fortunate in that this is my second time coming to Namibia and volunteering with EHRA and it has not disappointed. Our first sighting of the elephants followed shortly after Chris saying “guys-get back in the car, there’s an elephant in that bush” and sure enough a mother was having a feed on the nearby trees with her baby. The close encounters followed that afternoon when The Duchess and her three offspring of varying ages and sizes came right up to the car to say hello. They were so close that you could see their eye lashes. Seeing the elephants so up and close in their own environment is such a special experience that words can’t really describe. However, as another volunteer pointed out, we are not on safari, we are on patrol, and that afternoon we came across the carcass of Mama Afrika, who had not been seen for some time. I have not smelt an elephant carcass before and holy molly it stunk badly! After liaising with the MET and determining the death was of natural causes, the volunteers (with Chris and Mattias) build a little memorial with stones which was a nice touch. Being on patrol with EHRA gives you amazing memories, but is also such an educational experience-in the both the good, and slightly less glamorous times!
My top tips for EHRA:
– Wet wipes, wet wipes and wet wipes
– Bring moisturiser- the sand makes your skin really dry
– Rehydration sachets for build week should not be under estimated
– Consider the wind and terrain (i.e. if there is dry grass) before setting fire to your toilet paper. I don’t think I’ve seen Chris run as fast as when someone shouted “Chris! CHRIS! WE’VE GOT A FIRE!” (It was pretty funny after the fact!)
Claire, Melbourne, Australia
We’re made it back to Base camp after a successful patrol between the Ugab and Huab rivers and are thawing out from a frigid and windy trip back on the cars with some grilled cheese and hot tea.
After a somewhat grisly start to patrol finding Mama Afrika’s carcass and visiting a recently-dead massive bull, we enjoyed sightings of three herds. The first, spotted down river from Mamma Afrika’s mourning spot, came right up to our right. What could have been a heart-pounding encounter was much more calming than I had ever expected. The elephants were incredibly chilled and languid, just being around them felt relaxing.
Our responsibilities on patrol, as mentioned extend to checking up on live elephants as well as dead ones.
PAUSE…someone just set the stove alight. OK…all’s well now. We seem to have a thing for fires in this camp?
Anyway…dead elephants. Certainly a theme from the first half of patrol. We checked in on said bull, which had been killed in an apparent fight from a series of brutal wounds across his body. Given the size of this guy (posthumously named “Elvis” or “Barry White”), it’s hard to imagine how huge the “winner” in this fight was. Either way, it was weirdly heartening to see that this guy, like Mama Afrika, had died of natural causes – and better yet had tusks intact. If karma holds, the bloated bull will explode on whoever tries to take the tusks before the authorities….
After an eventful night including a giraffe sighting and a minor bush fire, we saw more LIVE ……REAL….LIVE elephants in the Huab region. Early morning tracking lessons led to a sighting of one herd with 16 elephants crossing the road to the river – an amazing sight topped only by the additional herd of 12 that followed. These were from herds “H1” and “H2” which we have been able to follow closely for the past two days while some entertainment votes might go to the large male with an…. Um… enthusiastic disposition, I think it’s safe to say that we were all won over by a particular baby elephant and an adolescent who wandered over to the car waving some branches our way. Chris A.K.A Freddie Prinze A.K.A Jack Sparrow ran a tight ship and had us snapping away for an I.D book for his region – “Front!” “Side!” ”Tail” and so on. Again, hard not to focus on that baby and it’s mother.
Definitely same sadness as we pulled away from the two herds digging for water in the riverbed. Its going to be a difficult transition going from this amazing place and its great people – and creatures – but it gives all the more reason to come back for more!
Meg, Boston, MA, USA
25.06.2015 Patrol week – The other car!
Mattias was our driver and we started patrol with only 4 passengers despite being in the car with better lumbar support. We had 6 passengers by the last day. It was harder to get in our car, so we developed some upper body strength. If you have any intention of riding on top of the car, I highly recommend push ups or some sort of core training. (Also squats for obvious reasons.)
Being in the second car frequently meant we missed the best bits because car one was in the way. But there were definite benefits, like Mattias’ crazy good eye sight or 6th sense. He doesn’t miss a creature! We saw a giraffe and scared him. He threw his body around in the most embarrassing way and ran in the opposite direction. Today as 1st car drove on, we stopped to see a group of four giraffes. Mattias is also very good at driving on sand! We only got stuck once and that delay led to the embarrassing giraffe encounter mentioned earlier. All in all we saw so many elephants I actually got bored!
Anna, Boston, United States of America
There may have been some competition between the two!
25.06.2015 Sunrise over Damaraland
The last morning on patrol week, it was well worth the early start to climb the rocks and watch the sunrise. Jo and I started climbing @06:30 with camera @ tea in hand. Although we were not climbing far it was tiring @ this time of the morning, and we got a little lost on the way up. Sitting up on that rock, watching over our camp and the incredible landscape of Mopane trees evenly spaced with tall shadows, was an incredible experience. The pink shades in the clouds and the orange on the horizon, this is when you know this is exactly where you want to be. You could sit there forever, silently watching and waiting for the next sunrise.
Rebecca – QLD, Aus.
To add to Claire’s top tips for EHRA, bring tampons for midnight gushing bloody noses! Even if you’ve never had one before.
Also, this tip has been life-changing for me. I’ve decided to pursue a career/degree in being a wildlife veterinarian. I’d love to move to Africa in the future.
Thanks EHRA for an amazing first time in Africa!
Daisy, Wisconsin, USA
We felt that EHRA needed a slogan to accompany the logo and came up with the following –
“From schwakopmund to scheafelfontein, we touch all of Namibia”