Week one of our Namibian adventure, and it’s fair to say we were thrown into it at the deep end.
After our twelve-hour flight, four miss-placed bags in Johannesburg, three of which were found when the rest of us arrived in Upington, a short stop at the Guest House to get the rest of our group and a rocky forty-minute ride to base camp, we were shown our tents and fed a traditional Namibian meal of potjie, pap and home-baked bread. After our meal, we were given a briefing from Dre and Red, our fearless camp managers, on what we were going to do and what was expected of us while we were here. At nine the next morning, we packed our rucksacks and set off on an almost three-hour trek down to the Orange River through a dried-up river bed. When we arrived at the river, everyone immediately jumped into the river to cool off and we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the river, setting up our tents and setting up the fire, ready for dinner. In the evening, we ate our rice and sausage dinner while admiring the crystal-clear view of the Milky Way and all the stars around it before trying the two types of whiskey Red had brought with him and heading to bed.
The following morning, we spent the morning knee-deep in the river collecting and examining the wildlife with Shelia, a river ecologist, and her husband, Kevin, to determine how clean the river was and which species to look out for to be able to tell if it was or not. After we’d determined that the river was unclean, Minty, Jonty, Max, Katie, Will Mackey and Hamish begun trudging through the river with nets, hoping to catch something big enough to feed all of us. As they walked along the river bed, one by one, they all begun losing their nets and Jonty got his feet tangled in the seaweed, which started dragging his head under the water line. After a few minutes, we noticed that he was struggling, and Minty went to free his feet as the rest of them went to retrieve the nets. After relaxing our way through the hottest part of the day, we decided to start on the hike back to base camp. When we got back, we all ate, then relaxed for the rest of the evening. The boys decided to start messing with the football, throwing it at each other as hard as they could. After testing the wind direction, Will asked for the football, aiming to miss the ball completely. He kicked it, the ball sailing inches from Sheila’s head and through the other side of the octopus. That’s when Dre created the ‘no playing ball in the octopus’ rule.
Tuesday, was a slightly more laid-back day as we just relaxed for the morning talking and reading, then we went out to collect the camera traps, hoping that we caught a leopard on camera. The next morning was an early wake-up, 5:30am, so we were ready and packed up ready to head out for a game count. We headed to the Three Volcanos sector to begin the count, driving through Rooikat and KumKum plane. About forty minutes into the drive, we realized that we had a flat tire, while watching two Kudu run over a hill. After changing it, we carried on more carefully and stuck to the trails. When we got back, Red went shopping (it was a very long list of things we needed) and to go collect the bait needed for the next day. While he was gone, we all begun to analyse the photos on each camera trap, organising them into different folders according to species. On a few cameras, there weren’t that many photos, but then on others, there were two different folders, each with another four different folders, each with nine hundred photos in them. As you can imagine, that took a very long time to sort through all of them!
On Thursday, we woke up to the horrible smell of dead Donkey in the back of the truck, and were told that we needed to get into the back with it, so we could set the camera traps back up. Reluctantly, we got in with the donkey, as far from it as we could. When we got to the first bait site, in the Whale Back sector, we offloaded the Donkey and prepared to make it into the bait for the Leopard. Max, Hamish, Beth (until she almost passed out) and Katie got very into disembowelling the donkey and dragging it along the floor towards the bait site. When we got to KumKum planes, Katie became quite good at creating a ‘kill site’ for the leopard to walk through while the rest of us tried to make the Donkey to stay up on the rock it was meant to.
It was another early start the next day as we headed to Warmbad to help create a vegetable garden in the local school. We created new compost piles, as well as add to the old ones and cemented posts in the ground for the fence around the garden. At lunch, we all headed to the local library to eat and contact our families with the WIFI. After an hour and a half of us all sat around a table in the library staring at our phones, trying to contact home or our friends, we headed back to the school to play football against the local children, that were all very excited to get involved. Max decided to have a gymnastics class in one of the goals, which was very popular. When we got back to base camp, we begun planning what tricks we could play on Will Gray, Jonty’s friend that was to get to camp the next day. We created a new ‘Camp prices’ list that included a service fee and prices for using the electricity, doing laundry, having biscuits, water, squash, ice, as well as the original bar prices being doubled.
On Saturday, we went to PelgrimsRust to get rid of old boundary fencing. Minty, Katie and I were taken by Red to set up camera traps. Red decided to run a couple of experiments on the camera traps to get the perfect shot of a leopard walking past, and decided that the only way to test it was to pretend to be a leopard himself. When we got back, we ate lunch, then continued fencing while Red went to pick up Will Gray from an entrance close to where we were fencing. When we got back to camp, war between Beth and Minty, and Max broke out. Minty, Beth and Johnty stole Max’s clothes and towel while he took a much-needed shower. Max came storming into the octopus, wrapped in only a towel and his hiking boots, demanding to know where his things were to the rest of us that were clueless as to what had happened. When Max was finally dressed, Minty and Beth headed to the shower, then Max snuck into their tent, took Minty’s bag and created a treasure hunt for them when they came out of the shower. Unfortunately, Katie’s jumper was in the bag too, so she was caught in the crossfire of their war.
On Sunday, Red, Max, Hamish, Jonty and Will Gray went out to set up the last of the camera traps. The rest of us stayed behind to tidy camp a little, then we relaxed, Minty, Dre and Beth topping up their tans, while Katie, Welles, Hayden and I listened to music and read, then we all had a yoga session. When everyone returned, the war between Max and Beth and Minty continued as Max rubbed his dirty sock in Minty’s face. Minty and Beth immediately started to plan their revenge. Who knows where this will end, or how far each side will go to finish this. Will this be to the death? Will Katie want revenge too?
It’s been a brilliant way to start our trip out here; meeting new people, a few debates on the English language, Will Mackey thinking the British are weird people and eating almost triple what the rest of us eat every day, Katie’s vocabulary slowly turning to British English and a couple of close encounters with the native wildlife. Hopefully, things will get even better from here!