Welcome to my blog. From August 2011 to December 2011 I travelled through Namibia and felt at home enough to say I was temporarily living there. My main goal was to work on a research project on the Pangolin, but I also got plenty of safari time and took part in some other volunteer opportunities. On this blog I did my best to keep a detailed account of my experiences.
To start from the beginning, click this link: http://emielkaza.blogspot.com/2011_04_03_archive.html
To start from the beginning, click this link: http://emielkaza.blogspot.com/2011_04_03_archive.html
After a fun night out with the EHRA crew, in modern, urban and hip Swakopmund I transferred to Windhoek where I spent the day at familiar Rivendell. There was one warthog grazing besides the B1.
Repacking was an incredible task and I left a lot of stuff in a box that goes to an orphanage, but I was finished by the time my taxi arrived. The driver was from Kavango, the area of which Rundu is capital. Mattias, Felix, Hangura and many others I met along the way are also from there. We talked a lot; life in Windhoek is more expensive, but there is no work in his village, he recently bought 4 cows and has plans to buy more, his community suffers mostly from livestock predation from wild dogs etc.. etc…
Later at the airport, after I had checked in, he was still waiting for his next client so we looked at a map of Namibia that hung on a wall.
I paused a moment before taking my final step off Namibia soil onto the plane’s ladder. And as we took off I tried to make out the land in the dark. Although I am looking forward to seeing my family again, there is much I will miss about being in a wilderness, particularly the Namibian. However, it hasn’t just been the wild, the people and cultures too are truly special here. From the modern and stylish supermarkets in Otjiwarongo, to the rather ‘outpost’ feel of towns like Katima, and the myriad of different tribes and languages which mingle easily – children learning many languages. Obviously people like Bruno, who is one of the great conservationists, to simple ways of workers such as Felix, who was unashamed to express his sadness in front of us. Grahams rough ‘farm-life’ hospitality. The humility of Tim and Tommy. The impressive gait and expression of Mattias. I have met so many interesting and great characters, people I wont soon forget.
Im writing this from the plane, but by the time you read this I will have arrived back in civilization. I will likely write one last post about adapting to the modern world, and of course share my 11000 photos, but in practice this blog has reached its end. I have tried to paint vivid pictures of life here, although I have no previous experience in writing – perhaps my photos will succeed better.
There are things impossible to transmit. There are also things I simply haven’t. Photos that should have been taken, in hindsight. Extraordinary encounters and things that from the biased view of the present appear swallowed in the mundane of the everyday working life. But also times when the camera was simply not at hand, for example during the hard labour at PAWS.
So, from summer in the African desert, to the European winter. See you all soon.
Posted by Emiel de Lange at 12/22/2011 11:10:00 pm
After we returned to camp, I set off on my own to experience the bush for the last time. I walked up a Kopjie and watched the baboons feeding further on. After a rest in the shade of a tree, I found a spring in the hills and followed it to the riverbed which took me to camp.
It will be a long time until I get to examine the marks left in the sand or feel the scratch of an acacia thorn. Although the final night was a lot of fun, I couldn’t help but feel a great sadness this morning.
Im now in Swakopmund, tomorrow I fly home from Windhoek.
So, after a lovely weekend we went on our adventure. Saturday was the end of year party and a lot of people from the local villages came in their traditional fancy dress. Sunday we all went down to Uis, the nearest town (about 1 hour away), and hung out at the pool of the Brandberg rest lodge. There was parrot that could speak and sing, as well as delicious milkshakes.
The next day we finally went. Most groups spent the week tracking elephant herds and camping where they are taken in the riverbeds - elephants spend their time in the dry season eating the lush vegetation and digging for water in the currently dry rivers. However, we are the last group of the year, and our guide, Chris, is moving on to his first proper tourism guiding job. For this reason we were super lucky to be taken out on a big expedition by Hendrick and Mattias, as a treat, but also to teach Chris the area. We did see elephants, but we also saw so much more.
We set off in two open Landcruisers, with all our bed rolls tied to the roof. Sitting on top was an option, and luckily no one else in my car wanted to, so I sat on top for the whole week. Apart from a few patches where I was only attached to the car by arms, and the scorching (according to some) sun, the view was incredible and 360 degrees (also it was actually more comfortable, and I managed to have a light nap on the last day). The lead car was driven by Mattias with Hendrick beside. This was the car to be in as their local knowledge is formidable. Apart from both being incredible characters, both have a wealth of experience and know the damaraland area like the back of their hands. Hendrick worked for the MET for 13 years as an anti-poaching officer, and spent many months wondering the bush, monitoring the rhinos, with only barrels of supplies dropped off at various locations by the government. Mattias led a team of trackers for the Save the Rhino Trust and so did something very similar. The 2nd car was driven by Chris who is a good guide, having recently finished his training in South Africa. I started in Mattias’ car, but swapped halfway through.
The first day we set off parallel to the Ugab river, stopping off at various farmsteads to ask for information. No one had anything fresh, and the most recent sighting of elephants was 3 weeks earlier. We continued west where Hendrick suspected the herd had moved to. The riverbeds look like lush green snakes moving through the dry landscape of yellows and browns. Damaraland is part of Namibia’s western arid zone, where a lot of animals have adapted specially to the desert environment. For this reason, a lot of animals are found nowhere else in the world, and on the way we managed to see Ruppel’s Korhaan and Ludwig’s Bustard, two examples.Also, amazingly we saw two Klipspringers scamper up a hillside nearby
Late morning we arrived at the White Lady Lodge, where they were sure to have an idea of the elephants whereabouts. They said they hadn’t been able to show their tourists the elephants for a while, as they had moved far west down the riverbed into the pro-namib wilderness. No problem for us, but we first moved into the riverbed and had lunch under the shade of a large tree.
Afterwards we continued along as the river got narrower and was swallowed up in rocky gorges. There was water lying openly and thick beds of reeds and papyrus filling every ravine. Mattias got out of the car and walked ahead. A few minutes later he came running back excitedly pointing over the reedbeds. A group of 5 elephants was grazing on a small plain behind the reeds, and we all walked through to approach them from downwind. We watched at a distance as they grazed, unaware of our presence.
Mattias and Hendrick start where they think the animals could have come and follow their tracks expertly, with near 100% success as we would find.
Retracing our tyre tracks a short distance, we drove up the riverbank into the shrublands and winding through the mountains. Eventually we came upon a series of vast grass plains and spotted ostriches and a few springbok. The Brandberg, the highest peak in Namibia, was also visible, looming over us in the distance. And the other way the plains and rocks stretched out for an eternity. After many kilometers we descended into a small valley with thicker vegetation. There was, apparently, an artificial waterhole, but it also was the catchment area of the Numas river. Rhino tracks were seen and followed, but unfortunately as we went deeper into a canyon, following the river, it became clear that the rhino had disappeared into the hills. Luckily, we did see a caracal cross the road ahead of us, too engrossed in the springbok nearby to notice us – quite a rare sighting!
In the riverbed, Hendrick tells us of a lion that approached his camp behind a particular bush. We then left the river and went off into the gorges to find a spot to camp, finding one at the foot of a granite cliff in a small valley. We slept to the sounds of hyena’s calling.
The next day we continue further away from the river, through the endless gorges and valleys carved in the granite hills. After many kilometers spotting Gemsbok, we come upon a great plain called Rooivlakte Nr. 1, the Brandberg still looming. On the plain we observed how an ostrich would run from us at a great distance, trying to get downwind and avoid detection.
At the opposite end of the plain, the Kwandachab riverbed lay and we drove along it, finding fresh rhino tracks almost immediately. On foot we followed but they had moved far, so back to the cars and continue that way. The Kwandachab river eventually joins the Ugab, but we moved in the opposite direction, spotting zebras and springbok and gemsbok. After a few hours we had to conclude, once again, that the rhinos had moved off into the hills, all 3 of them. We lunched once again in the shade in the river, with the huge walls of the Doros crater visible behind the rock walls.
The kwandachab split into the Doros which would flow into the crater, and we took this route. Preparing to duck under a hanging branch a rhino was spotted ahead in the thick bushes. It promptly ran off and zigzagged, moving off to another gorger in the right. Hendrick and Chris had began walking slowly alongside the rocks to scout the area, but Mattias spotted a 2nd rhino and whistled for them to come back. Driving forward we could see the 2nd rhino watching us from its safe distance against the dramatic backdrop. This one was a male, but the first was identified as a cow called Lani, whom Hendrick and Mattias had tracked many times before. We followed the path we had taken, hoping to meet her further down, instead one of her daughters and a granddaughter were spotted at a very close distance, before they too ran off. We really had the best of luck in terms of rhinos.
By now, we were in an area called Doro !Nawas, or place of the rhino. The riverbed took us into familiar landscaped of rocky kopjies and grass plains, before we came out onto a spectacularly vast plain surrounded by the Doros crater on one side, and Mik mountain on the other. Our camp for the night was beside huge slab of rock in the center, and I placed my bedroll on top of the slab. Hendrick told many stories of his time working here around the campfire, and of a Hyena den he discovered just ‘over there’.
Naturally, I woke up to an incredible vista, and as the sun rose it cast a red glow on the peak of Mik mountain, the moon still visible above – the perfect photo.
A few of us followed Hendrick as he walked looking for tracks, the cars caught up and picked us up later. That day we left the desert and said goodbye to the fields of gravel dotted with 1000 year old Welwitschias. Moving through the mountains we ended up back in the savannah of Damaraland at a monument called Burnt mountain which I had visited last year. Its really only a small mound, but it looks like its been burnt (by volcanic activity). Once again we began asking at various farms and lodges for information on the elephants, and we were directed to the Huab river.
After driving through the springbok filled grasslands in the Torra conservancy, we reached the Aba Huab river (aba – to carry on your shoulders), which flows into the Huab. After lunch we managed to find them feeding along the river. There were 2 small calves of less than a month. This wa the H2 (huab 2) herd, and they were very used to cars walking less than 2 meters from us. We marveled at how they used their incredible trunks to strip bark off the branches. At one point the matriarch rumbled and they all walked off in the same direction hurriedly. 2 lodge cars from the local Wilderness lodge were spotted, so we moved off up the river to set up camp.
As we were enjoying our dinner that night Mattias told us to shush, and pointed out the herd moving silently across the opposite bank. Further down, they crossed back into the bed, evidently walking quietly to avoid us. One young bull named Harold fed from the seeds under a tree only 20m from us, and we all gazed in the dark silence.
On the final day Hendrick and Mattias tracked them down and we said our goodbyes before beginning the long and uncomfortable ride back to camp. We passed the Mowani lodge where I stayed last year and saw lots of wildlife (which is all recorded with coordinates).
I could not imagine a better way to experience the incredible wilderness area than the expedition we undertook.
Ive just spent 4 days doing hard manual work, sleeping on a sheet outdoors, with a limited supply of water, food, a long-drop toilet and no other facilities.
After leaving Windhoek, saying goodbye to the nice lady who had lived in England and to Beth, the PAWS guide who was coincidentally also staying there, in a shuttle bus with only locals. The trip was 4 hours long, and the landscape gradually got flatter and sparser. We left the commercial farming area, but unlike crossing the red-line up north, there was no sudden transition to communal and tribal farms. Instead the fences simply disappear, but there are still no settlements or domestic animals roaming around. There are big yellow grasslands with dramatic mountains behind, and I saw a free-moving herd of springbok. The grass continued getting shorter, until it was only shrub, and then rainless lichen fields. Finally, it was just flat sand, ugly, until eventually Swakopmund appeared with watered palms and other non-desert vegetation surviving under human care.
Swakopmund is a very quaint, Germanic town - very safe to walk even at night with wide streets and lots of shops. I stayed at a backpackers which had been booked for me by EHRA and met the rest of the group. After dinner we went to a restaurant for drinks, and it was good to hear also the stories of the previous group. Many of the people here have been here for a while, and there are really only 5 of us newbies.
On Monday we drove north and then east into Damaraland. A vast government-owned wilderness of arid savannah sprinkled with big mountains and huge heaps of volcano-deposited boulders. Namibians can pay a very small fee to farm here, and many people herd their cattle or goats to water and to grazing. The EHRA base camp is in the shade of some trees besides the dry Ugab river. We have bed-rolls which we used to sleep on a platform in a tree, and there is a shower block built slightly up the nearby cliff. EHRA stands for Elephant Human Relations Aid, and the logo shows an elephants trunk and a human hand reaching for eachother.
Our leader is a very young Mauritian named Chris. We also have an expert tracker called Matthias who is from Rundu. He is over 60, but is a beast of a man – lifting the heaviest rocks with ease. He sings and talks to himself, and sometimes even dances. He swears a lot when things go wrong. Hes quite a character, in short. Finally there is Hendrick, a Himba who is the community liaison and travels around to talk to the villagers. He seems to have quite a vision for conservation and appears very intelligent.
After one night at base camp we loaded a minivan and a land cruiser and set off to Otumwe, a farming area far from the main roads, down hours of dirt tracks. Our goal was to finish building the last wall of the year around the farm’s water supply so that elephants cant get to it. We camped out in the open in the shade of two big trees, and erected a kitchen tent and toilet. We had only the water in our jerry cans, so understandably I didn’t have a shower or wash for 4 days. On the second day feral dogs began to hang around and ask for food, some of them were sweet sometimes, even coming to sleep by our feet. Though sometimes aggressively trying to get to our dinner, resulting in a kick.
The wall we were working on was a 100m from us, and we worked 6 hours a day. Driving to collect rocks from the nearest cliff face and then cementing them together. Hard work. Various insects and scorpions passed by to keep our interest, and herds of farm animals came to drink besides us, 2 cows even fighting and skidding across the ground close by. The local farmer would come to watch the animals, and then hung around in the shade watching us work. We did manage to succeed on the very last day after a lot of problems. On the second ‘rock-run’, as we call it, we ran out of fuel and Matthias sent myself and one other dutch guy, Bruno, to walk back to camp. We made it back quickly in a hour and I accompanied Hendrick in the minivan to bring fuel. The minivan has a long wheel-base and is not at all designed for difficult driving. A few kilometers outside camp we got stuck in the sand, one wheel being very deep. We tried a lot of things but nothing succeeded, and sent two local girls to fetch Chris from camp. They returned quickly, and eventually we got out after jacking up the back and then propping the car up on rocks. On the road we encountered Matthias walking in the opposite way, and brought him back to the land cruiser. The rest of the group had walked ahead to the rock cliff, so I stayed with Matthias to fill the land cruiser while Hendrick went ahead with water. The rocks got back late in the afternoon and we rushed to finish the last section just before dark.
Were now back at base camp, preparing for the end of year party. Im helping Hendrick with the spit-roast sheep which Im looking forward to and a local woman has come to wash our clothes. My muscles ache.
Next week well go on ‘elephant patrol’!
A namibia board game involving holes and stones called Owela, or something with clicks in Damara, which I bought in Okahandja turns out to be very strategic and Hendrick and Matthias play obsessively with a lot of foresight. Weve spent many evening playing.
Did I mention that at Okonjima I touched the electric fence and got a 7000V shock? It didn’t hurt but I blacked out for a fraction of a second as it forced me back a meter.
Posted by Emiel de Lange at 12/16/2011 04:56:00 pm
The Pangolin project blog is linked on the left of the page, but since my visit there have been two new posts detailing some of the work we did.
So far Paul has written about camera traps and ant sampling. Im sure a post about Okolunu is forthcoming:
So far Paul has written about camera traps and ant sampling. Im sure a post about Okolunu is forthcoming:
Posted by Emiel de Lange at 12/03/2011 10:01:00 pm
PAWS stands for People and Wildlife Solutions, and is a volunteer project run by the Africat foundation on the Okonjima game reserve. The whole thing is run by the Hanssen family who originally farmed on Okonjima before working to conserve Namibian predators. Since 20 years surrounding farms have been bought and donated to Okonjima, forming the current 220Km2 reserve, with 2000ha fenced of safely for the lodges and staff camps. Okonjima is a huge tourist draw, and many guidebooks describe it as a ‘must see’ destination as you are guaranteed to see wild leopards and cheetahs from up close. Not everyone agrees, Bruno was pretty cynical about the impact they’ve had and wasn’t too happy about the collaring of leopards for tourist purposes – and I tend to agree with him. Throughout my time here Ive been surprised to find that they are pretty open about their failings, but this is blended with an odd arrogance in that they still ask for donations and support.
Africat has so far basically been rescuing captive or trapped cheetahs and has developed a method of rehabilitation. They would also receive calls from farmers who had caught predators and wanted them removed – Africat would then relocate them. Over 1000 cats have been moved so far.
The rehabilitation hasn’t been too successful. The Cheetahs would be kept in 1ha enclosures until they were seen as fit enough, and then they would be released into the 20000ha Okonjima reserve. In a group, they would learn through trial and error how and what to hunt, and how to respond to other potentially dangerous animals. It was expected that many cheetahs would die in the process, but that those left would learn from those mistakes and continue on. To some degree it has worked as they do learn; for example one cheetah in a group of 5 (called The Siblings) was killed by a leopard and afterwards the remaining 4 would always sleep facing 360 degrees outwards. However during my two weeks here some more sad news cast doubt on the method: Hammer, the leader of The Siblings was chased and killed by Hyenas. Without a leader the remaining 3 are a little lost, AJ (Okonjima ranger) is still confident that they can learn, but when we found them one afternoon they came to the car and appeared to be begging for food. One of them seemed to be making the effort to go and look for prey, but the other 2 hadnt learned enough yet and didn’t cooperate with him. A little sad, but it was only later that I learnt that these 3 and one other (Tongs) are the only remaining from an original release of 17 cats. Although, to be fair Tongs is doing exceptionally well hunting on her own.
The relocation is also being understood now as unsuccessful as only a very small percentage of the cheetah and leopard populations are being impacted and relocating cats may not save them. Leopards are territorial, so you necessarily move the leopard into another’s territory. This could lead to fighting and perhaps death, or maybe the leopard will move a great distance to find a free spot in which case it will likely be outside of the predator-friendly zone to which it was originally moved.
Africat is also now left with many cats unfit for release, which cost a lot of money to feed.
The interesting thing is that Donna Hanssen, who runs Africat, spoke freely to us of all the failings and that they’ve realized their lack of impact. The plan is to move towards education, bringing in school groups to see the captive cats and the wild cats in order to instill conservation in the next generation of farmers.
The question Bruno raised was; why is such effort and cost necessary to work in conserving leopards and cheetahs? Neither species is endangered in this country, and the cheetah population is now at a historical high. This is due to the extermination of lions and spotted hyenas on farming land, both of which kill cubs in order to eliminate competition, and both species in more urgent need of conservation.
Still, I had fun working here and it was fascinating to gain these insights into the working of conservation in the country. Through my conversations with the rangers, Ive come to realize that Mundulea is really unique in its purity of ethics and vision and I gained further respect for what Bruno is doing. On the other hand, organizations like Africat have a point that creating a 13000ha island that is ecologically intact (Mundulea) can preserve some species and genetic lineages, but may not have a big impact on the state of endangered wildlife through the whole country.
So what is PAWS? It’s a small volunteer project based on Okonjima that helps them and Africat with their work, but more than anything really I think its designed to immerse the volunteers in their world so they have an understanding they can spread at home. There were ten of us, we slept in tents with two beds in each and a locker for our stuff. There are two toilet shower blocks with hot water provided by gas and there is a central lapa, which is a small roofed area with charging points, a kitchen and a big long wooden table with wooden benches. Just in front of the lapa is a long concrete cooking area and 20 metres further on is a small waterhole where Oryx and Warthog come, and Porcupine come to feed on our leftovers at night. On a rotational base, we’re responsible, in pairs, for the whole days cooking and cleaning which is a shit job as the washing takes you well into the night.
We would work in the morning, have lunch and a siesta and the go do something fun around 4. The work was mostly fun, sometimes interesting, sometimes just physical drudgery, but it was always worth it for the fun stuff which was really the same activities that the lodge guests do. There were two guides, Beth and Louis who led us in the work and then guided us on the activities as well as helping us cook from the set recipes.
Lets see… we chopped bush using big spinning blades and poisoned the roots to clear the encroachment. Bush encroachment is a country-wide problem cause by overgrazing with cattle, the grasses they feed on can no longer compete so a few species of bush take over the whole land and close it up. On Mundulea Bruno is planning to fight this using burns. We also chopped by hand using saws and machetes in order to clear roads in the Africat cheetah enclosures. Both very tough work in the heat and after cutting a bush with a machete my forearm felt stiff as rock. Other groups also worked on taking down old fences but I managed to escape by opting for a town trip and sitting in a café with my laptop, drinking milkshakes and eating German bakes.
Some of the more interesting things included the TRACKS project, which is preparing a catwalk and then taking photos of the tracks left by three captive caracals as they walk over (Max, Shinga and Yoda) it. This is to build a worldwide database allowing a computer to identify various animals tracks. Im not sure entirely of the use. The caracals tolerated our presence quite closely, but one step too far and they would hiss and bare their teeth.
Another close encounter with a cat occurred while we were cleaning the poo and bones out of the captive cheetah enclosures. One cheetah, Jago, was hand raised and is very fond of people, but doesn’t enjoy the company of his own kind. As we walked around his enclosure picking up his refuse and left overs he followed us, purring all the while, and when he could catch up he would rub his head against us and lick our legs. The same morning we also followed the feeding run, where two workers go past all the enclosures on a quad bike to feed all the captive cats. Many would stamp on the ground and hiss when they approached in contrast to cats like Jago and the Adams family who are ambassadors for their kind (although the Adams family still become very aggressive when they see kids and hiss and pace up and down, Jago is likely the only cheetah in the world who is tame enough to approach small people). One thing I found quite impressive was when we rounded a corner to where there are three rescued lions, a male and two females. Seeing them in such a short time after seeing a leopard and cheetah really made me appreciate the difference and size, and just how powerful lions are. Not even a leopard could stand a chance against a lioness.
I also spent one morning teaching maths at the Okonjima country school to the staff’s children. It was interesting, the kids in the class were from ages 7 to 14 and were learning about very simple additions and subtractions of numbers up to 10, but at the end I pulled out a world map and we had some interesting discussions about various countries. They only really knew of countries from the news like Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya.
The final thing we did was go to REST and help Martin clear his paths of rocks and dig trenches against the rain, just like the PAWS volunteers had done while I was there. It was nice to see Martin and the vultures again and also the land there with the hill. I only have good memories there.
The siestas were fairly long and I usually spent them in the lapa. The group of people here were fun and nice enough for me to do that. The tents were too hot anyway. I could joke and laugh especially with a young German (married couple) and two middle-aged German women. I got on well with an English girl and an English woman as well and with Beth the guide who took me and another on a special trip to see birds as I was getting a little tired of seeing Kudu and Impala. A few people had been to Namibia before, but most had never been to Africa so everything was new to them. I felt like I could teach them a lot of things. Breakfast was cereals, but I had bought yoghurt and muesli in town for myself (I wasn’t the only one to buy my own foods), and lunches were sandwiches with a huge variety of stuff to put on them. Dinner was always cooked on an open fire.
The activities were usually just game drives, but of course being Okonjima, all the predators in the reserve are collared and highly habituated. We tracked a lot of leopards, cheetah, wild dogs and even hyenas. All barring the leopards could be followed on foot at a close distance, and all barring the hyenas cooperated and posed for us. While it was great seeing these animals, it also felt a little unrealistic and not very exciting knowing where they were and having the certainty that we would see them. Also, the collars ruled out the possible photography bonus, for that we had to go see the enclosed cats.
We did get to go behind the scenes of the lodges, and regularly came behind in the staff area to pick up equipment. I spotted our guides from last year a few times (We visited the lodge last year).
AJ is a ranger at Okonjima and he is going to take over the PAWS side from next year, to further integrate it with Africat. I spoke with him a lot about how the reserve is run, about the animals populations and how they monitor them. The reserve is really managed with a focus on the predators, and although they do hope to restore the ecosystem and reintroduce some further species, the main concern is having a large enough prey base. For this reason, I disappointingly surmised that they didn’t have plans to phase out the common impala and replace them with the Black-faced Impala. This is a shame, as although the black faced impala is only a subspecies, it is in fact more endangered than the cheetah, but therefore also more expensive. The common impala is not a native species here, but fulfills the same ecological role and is cheap enough to build a large population for the predators. With other endangered species such as Roan there is talk of bringing them back, but first letting their populations grow in the ‘safe zone’, and with rhinos it is an ambition in the far future. Unfortunately in the context of managing a reserve for the purpose of conservation, Mundulea wins here.
I also spoke with AJ about the camera traps and traded experiences. It seems the ones we used on Mundulea are about as good as you can get them and that they face the same issues as us. I gained some advice also which I should share with Bruno. One difference is that at Okonjima they have live video cameras at all the waterholes permanently, and use the other traps on game paths and at baits.
There were also two workers who joined us in our work and did the general labour in the camp, Felix and Hanguera from Rundu. They were both very friendly and we had a bit of a rapport as I had been to Rundu in September. Hanguera asked me to burn a CD of music for him which I did, though I think he found it a little hard to understand the music, when he is used to Usher and 50cent.
Clive and Roma (both English, lived in Namibia for 8 years, clive big, bald and very funny) who founded and run PAWS are leaving and handing it over to Africat so Louis and Beth arranged a goodbye party. The top management and the Hanssen’s all came down to enjoy a spit-roast, which is a lamb cooked over hot coals for nearly a whole day (tastes amazing). It was good meeting them and was a lot of fun. When Donna heard I had done the Pangolin research she exclaimed, ‘oh, youre the Pangolin guy!’, and when I told her it was near Otavi she asked if it was with Bruno who she said was an amazing guy. I then talked with Wayne (the owner) about various pangolin experiences. All in all they were very friendly but very macho. Wayne told a story about how he accidentally shot one of his father’s cattle when he was 16 and then cut it up and buried the bits. The whole family spent weeks searching for this one cow, but he only confessed it when his father was near death.
Eventually the time came for gifts and speeches and then the Hanssens abruptly left to catch some stray impala.
The next morning was obviously time to leave and us workers swapped email addresses in order to share photos we had of eachother. Before we left however, Felix wanted to say his goodbye to Clive and Roma. It started off very nicely about how he came here young and loved working for them and thank you, but then he began to say they were like parents to him and he didn’t think they would meet again and eventually he couldn’t go on and Clive had to take him away and assure him they weren’t just leaving forever. Some of the others even began to cry, and I thought we had been forced into a drama, although I also felt it was a sad time.
That was yesterday, and we stopped in Okahandja where I visited the craft market. There was this beautiful wooden box with a rhino carved in the front and a board game inside. I have the seller explain to me extensively how to play, and even played a game with him before buying it for 35% of his original price.
Now im in Windhoek. Its weird being in a town ill tell you. Yesterday I walked to go pick up my passport and visa, which has been extended, and then to a mall to buy a new phone (I lost mine on Okonjima) and have lunch. For the first time In ages I had distractions from my food in the form of a TV. Still im enoying electricity and a decent bed and internet despite the noise and heat.
On a broader note Ive found it fascinating how things in the environment change with the seasons. Calving season has just recently started, I noticed already a few springbok lambs on Mundulea, but it became more obvious in Etosha and at Okonjima there were many many calves and lambs of all types just barely walking with their mothers. Obviously we are entering the rainy season, and we had lots of clouds in the last weeks with a few horrendous downpours including thunder and lightning. Various species of birds like swallows, martins and kites are popping up, arriving at the end of their migration from Europe. Tortoises and some other species have come out of their hibernation and are visibly walking the roads. Insects are coming out of the ground en masse to breed and ant colonies are flying off to form new settlements.
Posted by Emiel de Lange at 12/03/2011 04:14:00 pm