Four down, one to go!
November 13, 2013
By Mallory Plummer (University of Vermont)
We have successfully crushed four out of five conservancies after spending the past week in Ehirovipuka Conservancy! For those of you scratching your heads wondering what in the world “crushed” means, it’s a term used by our hilarious leader Vehi when we have successfully completed a task. Our Saturday morning was spent participating in a monthly foot patrol conducted by the game guards, Saky and Once of Ehirovipuka Conservancy. Saky and Once are very talented game guards and their wealth of knowledge as well as ability to spot wildlife was outstanding. The previous afternoon we had invited students from the local school to join us to see what scientists are doing in their conservancy. We had the pleasure of five students from grades 9-11 joining us for the three hour journey. We walked for nine kilometers through the conservancy. We were surrounded by animal tracks, plants, and scat that have become very familiar to us over the past two months. Although we only observed one steenbok on the foot patrol it was a great opportunity to talk with local students about themselves and their knowledge about the area. Soon after the foot patrol we moved camp from the conservancy office near the village to a hunting camp located further south on a dry river bed.
The hunting camp provided us with hot showers and a chance to view bird species that we had not yet seen in Namibia. The heat in Ehirovipuka was scorching and we spent afternoons hiding in the shade of a tent. While at the hunting camp we conducted game drives and even a new point count! Jess and I had the chance to help find a new point count location and by the end of the morning we had climbed two hills instead of just one and shared the torture of the Mopane flies as well as many laughs.
After two nights at the hunting camp we again moved farther south to a bush camp in Palmfontein. We formed our tents in a circle underneath tall makalani palms along the banks of a small stream. On arrival at our new campsite we were told that elephants were frequent visitors to this location and their tracks could clearly be seen throughout. It is still hard to believe that we are camping in areas shared by such magnificent wildlife. We finished wildlife monitoring on our second day in Palmfontein and in the afternoon a dust storm engulfed our campsite filling our tents with large amounts of fine sand. Shortly after the dust storm cleared, a small sprinkle of rain briefly graced us with its presence cooling our hot, dry skin. The stream bed and surrounding areas were littered with carcasses of Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, a result of the ongoing two year drought. The drought has had large visible impacts on every aspect of life in Namibia. Plants have become hard to recognize with no leaves, there are starving cattle and wildlife and most people are struggling to sustain their livelihoods.
On Wednesday we departed from Palmfontein and returned to Wereldsend to prepare for community surveys in Torra Conservancy. It always feels strange to come home from the bush to our temporary home in Wereldsend with running water, solar power and sharing a tent with someone else. Wednesday afternoon was spent scrubbing sand out of our clothes and showering before enjoying a pizza for dinner! The pizza was delicious with red peppers, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and cheese over a red sauce with a crust made from pap (the local cornmeal staple). It was very filling!
That evening each of us was to bring an object to the fire that represented the person we had drawn out of Bekah’s hand the previous day. We were not allowed to bring an object that belonged to that person and many of us got very creative! A few of us were food items while others were a deflated soccer ball, a patch of deeply rooted grass, a shiny rock, a walking stick, Party Sue (one of our trucks) and even a turtle from a local folk tale. It was a great way to be reminded of how extraordinary each of us is and how we contribute to the group in many different ways.
On Thursday, Jess and Wyatt prepared us for community surveys in Torra Conservancy that will be used to examine the benefit distribution plan and conservancy member’s opinions regarding the plan. These surveys will be used by the conservancy to revise their current plan to better fit the needs of its members. Surveys could begin as early as tomorrow morning and will be conducted in all five blocks of the conservancy.
It is incredibly hard to believe how fast time is passing by us and that in six short weeks many of us will be seated in a crowded airplane destined for the United States. For the rest of us we will begin our next journey in Africa whether it is exploring more of Namibia with our dad, volunteering in Zimbabwe, studying abroad in South Africa or traveling with no concrete plan with our sister. Whatever the next leg of our journey, over the past week we have begun to realize what a crucial support system each of us has become for each other. In six short weeks we will be away from the six people who we have shared indescribable experiences with; experiences that will be difficult to convey to others.
It’s difficult to put into words the ever changing beauty of a sunset in Wereldsend, the comforting smell of Mopane wood burning, waking up in the middle of the night to lions roaring in the distance, and seeing the true depth of the night sky for the first time without the invasion of city lights. It is difficult to think of these six individuals just as my friends because truly, we have become more like a family. We have learned each other’s strengths, weaknesses and most importantly what makes each of us incredibly special and unique. Round River has blessed us with the opportunity to spend a semester with amazing people that we most likely would never have had the chance to meet. I have no doubt that I will leave Namibia with six new lifelong friends.
“The truth is- as human beings, we are probably much more alike than we are different, and in the areas in which we differ, we can learn a lot from each other.” -Unknown