Volunteer Blog 23 February – 6 March 2015

???????????????????????????????Build Week 23 – 27 February 2015

This trip started off with only 5 volunteers attending the meeting at Villa Wiese on Sunday evening. Fortunately the three missing girls arrived on Monday morning in time to go shopping before we left…
After the first night at Base camp we repacked our bags, loaded the cars and headed for the building site. It was a long drive on bumpy roads, but we got there shortly after lunch to find the half-finished wall that had been started 4 weeks earlier. Camp was set up, brand new work gloves taken out, water bottles filled up and sun screen put on before we went off to get our first load of rocks. As the days went by, we could see the wall growing bit by bit. Every time we switched the pump on to get water for mixing the cement, the goats and cows came running to get their share to drink. It was hot, so we kept drinking lots of water, used some rehydration sachets (or de-hydration sachets?!) even though they taste like ten dead Zebras…..The shower from the pipe was well received by some of us – thanks Chris! By Thursday afternoon the wall was finished – it looked nice! On Friday morning we packed up camp and hit the road again. With not everybody feeling well, we had to make a bit of a plan, but we managed to get back to Base camp safely. In the meantime the message that an elephant was stuck in the mud and needed help reached Chris, so we got buckets and water and climbed straight back onto the car. The plan was to cool the animal by throwing water on it, but the elephant had obviously sensed it and didn’t want to meet a bunch of EHRA volunteer, so it managed to free itself just before we got there! Mattias tried to follow it, but the elephant was moving faster than we could drive….so we had a late lunch and then drove back to Base camp to enjoy the well-deserved showers!
Katrin, Switzerland

???????????????????????????????Things I won’t easily forget
1. Taking a shower after a week of hours work is the most enjoyable thing on earth. You’re covered in sand and dirt and you’re finally able to wash it all off. It just gives you such a relief, it’s unbelievable. I never thought taking a shower could be so great.
2. Here at the main camp, there is a very wide spraying shower in open air. If the sun shines in it and you stand right in the middle, you’re able to see a 360 degrees rainbow. You can just look to every direction you like and keep on seeing it. It’s like you’re in an imaginary world.
3. There are some places in Namibia where there is a 360 degrees horizon. It gives you a feeling like you’re in space, where you can see everything around you in a range of hundreds of kilometers. It’s so amazing that you can’t avoid shedding tears of happiness, and it just gets you thinking how small we actually are on this earth.
4. Sleeping in open air is great. Here at the main camp, we sleep in a big tree with a platform where we can put our sleeping bags on. If you pick the right spot, you have a perfect view on the overly bright stars. Before you go to sleep you can look at those stars, listening to the wildlife coming out at night. Nothing is better than doing that before you go to sleep.
5. Sitting on the highest mountain top gives you such a free feeling. It lets you think that you literally and figurally are on the top of the world. The strong wind in your hair, the adrenaline and the wide view are enough to actually give you some life visions of what you want to do in your life. It’s like you gain spirituality and creativity when you’re so high in the sky. This is where I actually wrote these 5 notes.
Alexander Meeus
18 year old
Belgium
First week

Elephant dust

Volunteer Blog – 09 February 2015 – 20 February 2015

Damaraland view12th February 2015

In a rare moment of peace I can watch the sun go down behind the mopane trees in the river behind build week camp. The heat has gone from the air, the mopane bees seem to have gone to bed and the earthy aroma of the wild sage lingers in the air. Dinner is babbling away in the pot, while a motley and very dirty crew are playing cards by the fire pit. The same crew have kept me entertained for days now and any moments spent away from them, make me want to go join them. So join them now I will – shuffle me in guys.
PS: The wall is making good progress.

Elephants in shade

16th February 2015
Our first day of patrol found us tracking the G6 herd, but with no luck. Setting up camp late, we were busy cooking the “quick + easy” dinner – spaghetti carbonara (yum!). But the G6 herd decided to grace us with their presence several times. A late dinner which no-one minded!

Elephants with calf

17/02/2015
Patrol week
Today we were awoken from the inside of our dewy sleeping bags by a cheery smile and hot cup of coffee. Attempts to start the car were made successful by Mattias and his gentle words of wisdom, then we were on our way.

We adventured into the west and after a while came across a delightful place for lunch. A few of us volunteers were feeling energetic and opted to trek up the dunes to find the ideal viewpoint for taking photos with our new friends.

Volunteers playing cards

Once back in the car we ventured further, with the surrounding area becoming greener and greener. After a while we stopped by a wetland and Chris opted to demonstrate his fishing skills-survival-esk. Imprinted in the mud we saw lion, hyena, baboon and elephant tracks.

Volunteers camp

We then trekked to the top of a koppie constructed of black basalt rocks. From the top we could see a group of 10 elephants, including a baby, no more than a month old. “Guys let’s find a place to camp” said Chris once we were back in the car. Our search was cut short as we came across a group of tourist whose car was stuck in the mud. We lend a hand and before long they were free, with big smile printed on their faces.

Volunteers starting a fire

18/02/2015
We woke up to an amazing sunrise on the desert of Damaraland. To make it even better, a hyena decided to do her morning walk near our campsite. It was a brown hyena, even Chris saw it for the first time. A great start for a great day!

It took us only a few hours to find the group of elephants that we saw yesterday. The landscape we drove through could not have been more beautiful!

Elephant pooing

As we found the elephants, we noticed that a few animals were not there. So after lunch we decided to go and find them. And so we did! We found another cow and her baby and a younger female. Not far from them a young bull made his way through the bush.

Tired and happy because we saw so many elephants we decided to set our camp early and have an – I was told – amazing Thai Curry.

It was a very guden day!

Volunteer group pic

Volunteer Blog – 26 January – 6 February 2014

Volunteer group photo31st January 2014
Just over a week ago, we had our “last night” of the first patrol in base camp and experienced the first desert rain of the year. A hot humid night full of insects and a visit from the porcupine made for a restless night. In only three days, we could see a big difference the rain had made to the landscape in Damaraland as we returned to base camp for a “cycle”, and with a new group of volunteers. Green grass is spiking up, creativity that looks like a lawn out if you look into the distance. The acacias scrubs are all budding new leaves and some are covered in their furry pale green flowers. New plants are emerging from the stony grounds and we have been trying to identify them.

Volunteers collecting sand

Our build week was at a new location, it is shady but stony which made digging the foundation difficult. All around us and at our campsite, mopani seedlings and acacia seedlings are sprouting from the ground in small fields. The farm goats, cows and donkeys appear to have a spring in their step and are enjoying the grass shoots, like the elephants, they seem to get excited before they come to drink water at the trough by the build site. After having their fill, they watch amused as we sweat building rock walls. Water in the desert is a very special treasure, if you are to look closely at life it delicately sustains.
Every night at our build camp, we watched the storm clouds tower up over the eastern plains, lightning and thunder accompanying them. But then they dissipated and missed us. We are all hoping for a big rain to make the rivers flow!
Mel, Scotland

An Elephant holding a stick31st January
There’s a great African story about travellers who ventured on an expedition into the African savannah. The travellers landed their plane on the continent – met with their travel guides. After very long days of travelling the guides sat down and refused to move for days. The guides informed the irked travellers that they had to catch up with their souls after long days of travelling. Much like the group of travellers, I came to catch up with my soul – at EHRA. I could not have asked for a better place to rest, learn, meet fellow travellers, and be graced by our planet’s amazing wildlife species – elephants. I’d like to believe that this stop-in wasn’t a simple coincidence, but that it was meant to be, and aligned by the universe. I’m glad I got to catch up with my soul at EHRA. Thank you all for making this camp what it is in the heart of desert elephant country. I wish you all my best with your conservation endeavours. I do hope our paths may cross again. Cheers! – A fellow traveller B.J

Volunteers on the platform

Volunteer Blog – 12 January – 23 January 2015

Volunteers

12th January 2015
The year has started off with a bang for EHRA team! After only 5 minutes after our arrival at base camp Mamma Afrika’s herd appeared in a distance. With gear all around the place we moved to the viewing window of the Pleasure dome’s patio to watch the herd. It was very exciting to watch them. Later the Ugab small herd also came into the camp and joined them and both moved down the river, keeping an eye on us. Much later the herds moved past us in the tree house, stopping for less than 8 minutes away from us. Could our first few hours in camp get any better? Well yes, Voortrekker sneaked around the bend and after a quick drink, moved on further up the river
Mel, Scotland

Volunteers relaxing

January 16, 2015 End of week 1/Build week
Any group that gets to participate in EHRA’s project is lucky – when else in your life will you have the opportunity to help Namibian farmers, fall asleep with the breeze on your skin and a view of the stars, and live at a “base camp” where elephants stroll past and genets climb through the kitchen? We felt our group was especially lucky this week because we got to complete the rock wall at our build site! So many groups before us put in the effort to make this wall and thanks to lucky timing and determined work we got to see it finished and return to base camp on Thursday. That meant we had time on Friday morning to help with some home improvement projects around base camp! It really does feel like a cosy home with the best outdoor shower ever and our nice sleeping platform in the tree to catch the breeze. Advice we would pass on to future volunteers: bring lots of wet wipes and sparkling juice as an afternoon pick-me-up on build week. Don’t forget your work gloves, sun hat and a sense of humour!
Andy

Elephants drinking water

20th January
Our patrol week began with a tip-off that the G6 herd were heading our way….but there was no appearance from them before we set off. Our agenda was to see if Mamma Afrika had rejoined her herd. The last time she was spotted was 4 weeks ago on a patrol. We caught up with Mamma Afrika’s herd quickly down the Ugab river. Ullysses came immediately to greett us in the truck followed by one of the juvenile females and another baby. Mamma Afrika was not to be seen. We continued down river and came upon Tusker feeding by himself. We continued on to the Brandberg, but then Chris decided that tracking the G6 herd might lead to Mamma Afrika’s whereabouts. We headed back upriver, stopping to say hello to Mamma Afrika herd, the Ugab small and Voortrekker. Narrowly dodging Kambonde hiding behind a tree, Ullysseb and Cheeky came to say hello to us in the truck as well.
Volunteer cooking

We headed off to find the G6 herd after a quick change of a flat tyre and a stop at base camp. We found them after 2 days bush whacking with the land cruiser. They were shy and trying to avoid us so we left them to it. Mamma Afrika is still unaccounted for.
Today we travelled back to the wetlands of the Ugab river. It involved quite a bit of 3WD driving and lots of reeds are still stuck in the land cruiser. No Mamma Afrika, but tracks of Black Rhino, Hyena and Lion meant that we drove a lot further to set up camp for the last night on patrol, but still Mathias slept with both eyes open!

Volunteers swimming

Volunteer blog – 03th November – 14th November 2014

Volunteer group photo

I stayed for 2 weeks with EHRA. Now there is only one week left and we had a really hard building week. Sand runs, rock runs and mixing cement have done a lot of pain to me, but I have to try to be a strong woman 

I’ve never had so much dust in my lungs, that’s what should have been written on the “what to bring with you” list – scarf, bandana, etc

I have also learned that my name sounds like a nice word in English language. Thank you Chris, thank you to my parents.

All in all, thank you EHRA for this life –time-experience.
Daria , Germany

An elephant carrying a stick

08/11/2014
Emma(the lazy one)

Despite the work that was too hard for me, I had a really good time with everybody. A great experience, I will keep good memories. I had never camped in the desert, or in a very arid savannah. I am happy to have known Namibia the way I did and I will come back for sure.

EHRA camp

Thanks to Chris, Jacob (Adolf), Mattias and the rest of the EHRA team. What you guys do is great. Good luck, I support you with all my heart….Kisses

I’m spending two weeks with EHRA. The first day we’ve started with some bad luck. Our car couldn’t be fixed in time and we had to leave Swakopmund later than planned. Richard felt sick during the journey, we had a flat tire and on Tuesday we didn’t find our building spot for a long time. I was freezing during the night.

Elephant walking

But once we arrived, I really liked the building week. We stayed on a nice spot with a lot of shadow and a beautiful surrounding. The camp was cosy and our group is like a small family. The work was pretty hard but I enjoyed it very much. I’ve never had so much dirt and dust all over my body in my mouth, my nose, ….and every muscle in my body was hurting in the morning. But it felt so good to work in the team and to build the wall. In the evening we sat around the fire, eating, chatting and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

Elephant volunteer view

During that week we didn’t only learn how to do sand runs, rock runs, cement mixing, building walls or cooking on a fire, but also how to speak Chris’ language or cure cancer/Ebola….by eating that healthy porridge. On Thursday I’ve hurt my finger and I felt quite useless during the last day. On Friday we drove back to the wonderful base camp, where we’ve enjoyed a refreshing shower, the luxury of using water from taps again and just sitting around e.g on the swing under the Ana tree. Yesterday we were in Uis, swimming in a pool and visited the supermarket. Now we’re ready to start the second part of our adventure and I’m so looking forward to spend another great week with that group out in the desert and hopefully see a lot of elephants and other animals!

Volunteers camp beds

A huge thank you to guide/teacher/driver/doctor/supervisor/animator/entertainer Chris, who made this first week so special! I am sure that the second week and also the stay in base camp will be great as well due to the amazing support of Adolf, both Matthias’ and Marius. The EHRA-staff is just great and the stay here very “guten”!

Best regards from (left-handed) Swiss girl Corinne

Elephants drinking water

The day when the first snow has been falling in Sweden – and we sit here under the burning sun of Africa. It is a rest day in the camp (if you don’t mind to clean the boxes, scrubbing the pots etc) and we relax beside the burning elephant dung – the smoke keeps the flies and bees away. I love it here – even the hard work of last week. Sand run, rock run, cement mixing, stone laying and mixing. I prefer the rock run, it was the non-dusty run (or a not too dusty run). Have a pillow with you when on the drive. Bumpy roads make your behind to hurt – sitting on the pillow makes it easier.

There is now fresh water in the elephant pool – I have to hurry up to get there before the elephants come!
Marjatta from Sweden(and Finland) – 70 years

Volunteers having a laugh

Patrol week, 10.11.14(1st day)

Our second week started with another flat tire. A little later, Richard recognized the he has lost his mobile phone, when we’ve spotted the first elephants. It was the herd of Mamma Africa with little Joy. They were walking to a water tank. After a while we drove away to have our lunch. Right in the moment, when we wanted to start eating, another elephant appeared. It was Stellar of the G6 herd of Bellatrix, she stood only a few steps away from our car and the rest of the herd followed quickly.

After lunch, we drove back to search the mobile phone – and fortunately found it again, but then the car broke down so we had to return to the base camp where we spend another night.

An elephant and calf

By the way: I can’t stop crying since Chris has left the camp. My eyes are watering since for hours, and Marjatta still speaks the Chris’ language. She shouted out at “goaten” today.

Our car got fixed and we started packing our stuff again. Already in the morning we’ve met the elephants of yesterday. In the afternoon we’ve found the 3th herd as well. Now we’re on a beautiful spot where we will stay for the night. Betty has recognized that we’ve only two pots instead of three, but I’m sure the dinner will be delicious anyway. As long as we’re waiting, we’re discussing about German dialects. Is it schlangenbrot, stockbrot or knuppelbrot?
Corinne

Volunteers doing sand runs

13.11.14
It’s my second last day with EHRA and I’m feeling really sad about that. Would love to stay for two more weeks!

What I’m not going to miss is: flies in my face, the smell of a rotten baboon, porridge, the snoring of several team members, wet wipe showers, the strong wind up in the Ana tree, my watering eyes (I’m still crying), sand runs, thorns and dust. But I will miss for sure : sleeping under the stars, watching the “oliphants”, sitting in the swing beyond the Ana tree, cooking on the fire, building a wall, the nice view from “the loo” out in the bush, the amazing landscape, sitting around the fireplace and having a shower after 4 days in dust.

Volunteer's rock run

Nothing of this would have been so great without that funny group! I will miss Marjattas dry/ironic comments from the backseat, Hans hand and feet communication, watching Richard searching his camera/water bottle/head torch/book/mobile phone (to be continued) or cutting onions like a chef, Betty’s helping hand and advices in the well organized kitchen, playing the seed-game with my ana tree- neighbour Daria, watching Maria’s face, when she is excited about animal traces, landscape – and especially welwitschia, Chris instructions of which you can never be sure if it’s a joke or serious thing, Mattias laughing about stupid questions, Marius explaining us the African sky and the boys at base camp, repeating things just in minutes, no matter what happens with it in some hours or days.

Thank to EHRA and the other volunteers for two amazing, unforgettable weeks!

Corinne

Volunteer standing in the trailer

Volunteer blog – 20th October – 31st October 2014

Volunteer group pic27 October 2014
This volunteer experience has turned out to be more than I could have imagined! The scenery, the wildlife, the people and all the hard work by the people at EHRA is amazing!
Build week was hot – extremely hot – even the wind that blew was hot air! And when we drove up to the wall in a small village near Omatjete, I really didn’t think we would finish it before Friday. But our team this week were a bunch of hard workers and after breaking part of it down and rebuilding it, lots of sand runs and rock runs we finished it before lunch on Friday morning: A true team effort and rewarding feeling to be part of something that will make a difference between these villagers and the elephants.

Volunteer
Bring lots of wet wipes with you on build week, you will get so so dirty. And when you get back to base camp, be prepared for the most amazing shower of your life! The outdoor showers are fabulous and a perfect way to get rid of the grime from build week.
During the weekend you get a bit of a break – Saturday morning we drove to Uis for some chill time at the Brandberg rest camp where they have ample outlets to charge your camera and phone, a swimming pool and a great lunch menu.
During our time at base camp we were also lucky enough to see some elephants pass by. Two bulls came through, stopped for water and moved on. It was so amazing, they were so quite, you could almost miss them.

Elephant
We have just started patrol week and we were so lucky on our first day to come up on a herd with all the little young elephants! They are so adorable.
The guides are great, really knowledgeable and keen to ensure everyone is safe and has a good time. Base camp is great – you get to sleep in a tree house, and while out on either build or patrol week, the guides ensure you are as comfortable as possible.

Volunteers camp
Overall a worthwhile experience to consider doing at least once in your lifetime!
Tanya from Vancouver, Canada
PS. Sleeping underneath the African starlit sky is a once in a lifetime unbelievable experience!!!

Elephant calfOct 30, Peter and Judith Croal
What a privilege to experience Namibia through the eyes of EHRA and its amazing stuff? We were so lucky to do and see all that Namibia and his people have to offer. And after being away for 10 years, it was completely “lekker” to be back. We shall return. Thank you EHRA, elephants, starry nights, cool winds, sunsets, and all our new friends! Good luck to Mamma Afrika! And I hope Joy lives to a ripe old age.

Volunteers building

This volunteering experience has been incredible. EHRA is a fantastic organization and it has been a privilege to be a part of it for 4 weeks. The things one sees and does on this trip are something most people will not experience in their lifetime. From the wall building to sleeping with lions in the vicinity during the night, all of these things are incredible and will stay with me forever. The people on the trip are so friendly and always talking about something interesting. Also having your birthday with elephants is definitely something I will not forget
Jamie Paul, Scotland

Volunteer's completed wall

Volunteer blog – 6th October – 17th October 2014

Group Picture

We never had this much fun in a collective shower before, definitely. This use of wet wipes is under rated! We learnt how to build walls, how to entertain cows – cow cinema is a thing, we know it – and that Namibian woman are the toughest when it comes to mixing concrete.
Cooking on a fire sure does take longer, but its way more fun. And we learned how to get one going in the desert.
We found out that “lighter for bush business” means exactly what we thought beforehand.
While the elephants kept us waiting for a while we got entertained by springbok, oryx, zebra, kudu, ostriches and lion tracks. It’s amazing to make your way through almost untouched nature that seems to have fallen out of time. Or “Jurassic Park”, for that matter.
Thanks for an unbelievable adventure
Anita, Monja and Ingrid

Elephants playing

Lauren Evans
I’m 2 weeks into my 4 weeks on EHRA. We all meet on the Sunday evening to meet everyone and talk about the 2 weeks ahead and to arrange a meeting time to leave the next day for our week of building walls for the local farmers. After leaving on Monday we went to base camp which is a camp on a river bed, and the place where we all sleep in a tree (like when you were a kid wanting a tree house).

Volunteers busy with sand runs

Packing and leaving on the Tuesday morning to the farm where we were knocking down and rebuilding an old wall which had been knocked down by an elephant. Build week involved LOADS of sand runs, rock runs (big ones, flat ones, small ones…) hahahaha…After finishing the wall we took a picture and head back to base camp to get ready for our few days of patrol. After a weekend at camp and Saturday going into a nearby town to swim and shop. Leaving early Monday morning out looking for elephants. We didn’t manage to see elephants for two days until one afternoon after tracking through thick bushes and chopping down branches, we came across some. After a 20 minute swim, we had elephants walking towards us. We got into the car and drove up a hill to set up camp and watch the whole 3 herds walked past us.
After dinner and ready for bed, Chris heard lions, so we did a night watch so that we could keep ourselves safe. All safe and back to camp all is well and had an awesome time. Looking forward to my next 2 weeks.

Volunteers watching

Jodie Curry (Australia) 16 October 2014
I have just finished the most amazing and rewarding 4 weeks with EHRA in Damaraland, Namibia. Learning how to build rock walls and make cement, rock runs, sand runs. It is like piecing together a large and heavy jigsaw puzzle. The weather was very hot and it was hard work, but we had a lot of fun. I am glad I was able to contribute to something that benefits the local villages and elephants.
Patrol weeks WOW. The first week we saw all three herds plus the bulls. Highlights: when the elephants walked past our camp late in the evening and early the next morning which saw us retreat to the cars. Also having one of the female elephants walk right up to the car to feed from the tree we were under. To look into her eyes, mouth and the details of her skin. No baby elephant poop this week.

Volunteer fitting a rock

The second patrol week saw us venture out even further in search of the elephants. Along the way we saw kudu, ostrich, springbok, oryx, steenboks, mountain zebra and lion tracks. Parts were not easy going breaking or chopping branches out of the car in the car lean to left, lean to right. We finally got through and it was time for a swim in the spring. After swimming we were sitting on the rocks when the elephants appeared! So we headed back to the cars to watch. While setting up camp and cooking dinner all three herds passed.
We had not long gone to bed when Chris noticed there were lions close by. Everyone was soon out of bed and so began the long and mostly sleepless night of lion watch in 2 hour shift. Yikes! The experiences, friendships and memories made on build and patrol weeks will not be forgotten. Sleeping in the treehouse at basecamp or under the most amazing Namibian sky I had the best 4 weeks ever. A massive thank you to Chris, Mattias, Adolf, Matthias and the EHRA team. I will be back.

Elepahants play fighting