Wednesday, 12 November 2003

Namibia Elephant Trek

2 - 11 November 2003

My adventure really started about 9 months before in March due to boredom and the internet at work!
I had visited the Capital Radio website to look at something totally different when I came across details of the 2003 Namibian Elephant Trek.  All I had to do was raise £2500 for Help a London Child and they would let me go to Namibia to see the elephants; How could I say no?

Asking people for money is Hard!
9 months seems like forever when your working towards something, so getting motived to raise the £2500 was pretty hard. I kept putting it off until I knew that I just had to do something about it. 
Once I got started it wasn't so bad. I organised a car wash - wrote articles for local papers and magazines - had a BBQ for all my friends - and ran a prize draw, first prize £100. Somehow within the deadline I had made the money, but I have to say I don't fancy doing it again. Asking people (my friends as well as strangers) for money is the hardest thing I've ever done and that includes the treking that came as a by product of it all.
At last it was Novemeber 1st and I was packing.

3 meals on a plane and I feel sick!
I'd only ever been on a plane for those tiny journeys that take you to some place in Europe, so 10hrs on a plane to South Africa was quite an experience. The best bit has to have been the thunder storm I watched while everyone else was sleeping. 
We hung about Johannesburg airport for too long before the 2hr flight to Windhoek airport. So at last we were in Namibia, but we still had a 6hr drive along dusty, bumpy roads to the camp in Damaraland. It even rained briefly which I thought was quite funny having been told to enjoy the rain at home (England) as I wouldn't see any while I was away. 
The coach rolled into camp just as the sun was setting, and we saw our first elephant in the dusk, in the middle of the camp.

Hard Labour
There were about 40 of us out there so we were split into two groups of about 20. The first group would trek for the first 3 days then do project work for the last two, where my group did it the other way round. 
The start of the water dam
We still didn't know each others names and yet we were up at 07:00 and set to work on building a water 'dam' - somewhere for the elephants to drink so they would leave the nearby village alone. The heat seemed quite nice at 08:30 in the morning, it was as the sun climbed in the sky that I finally realised just how hot it was going to be. 
The colours were totally amazing; a sky so blue, and rocks so red that even covered with a fine layer of dust they look bright. I think we amazed the local guides with quite how much we achieved considering none of us 'had any real skills!'

Jonas Village
On day 2 after much hard work, they decided we had worked hard enough - we could go on a 12km trek as a treat. We walked to the nearby (6km away) village. 
Hopefully the work we had been doing would help to keep the elephants away from the village as they have a tendency of smashing houses without meaning to, in their search for water. Once there we were welcomed, and invited to look inside one of the houses. We were amazed to find it made from anything and everything from corrugated iron to boulders. 
As we stood out side we played with Jonas granddaughters, and took photos - amazing them with out digital cameras where they could see themselves! And then we walked the 6km back to camp...

Elephants round every corner!
So finally our time had come. It was time to trek. Up at 06:00 to try and get in as many kms as possable before it got too hot; it was actually not so bad to start with. We walked mostly in the river bed which though dry shows the evidence of water in the amount of greeny there is about, so there was some shade. Elephants were ahead the guides told us, as it got hotter. And so they were; though this meant a quick scramble up the rocky sides for us to get out of their way. 
They were quite amazing to see. I know they were big but against a back drop of the Brandburg Mountain they didn't look so huge. Once they moved off we scrambled down again and continued our trek till 21km later we got to camp.

Close Encounters
We'd lost track of days by now. But we knew it was another day of treking. As we'd seen elephants yesterday no one was expecting to walk into a herd of them today. But there they were after only about 3km. And according to the guides this was a totally different herd from yesterday - Brilliant! 
The scarest sound that I have ever heard is the trumpeting of 3 bull elephants that have decide that they don't like you, as they run after you!! - meaning a 3km detour round them. This was the longest and hottist day of treking, and even a swim in a murky pool, though much enjoyed, didn't help that much. 
We treked a very long way and in the end they took us the last bit on the back of the jeep! Back at camp we found ourselves surrounded by this mornings herd!! Another scary moment though it did give us the chance to see their calfs.

Nearly there!
Up at 06:30 and more of the all too familiar scrambled egg. The last day of trekking and we're looking forward to it; or at least getting back to the main camp. 
There's cloud cover today which if anything makes it hotter. We're use now to the winds that feel like someone's just opened an oven door, and the scorching sun, but now it's starting to get humid. 
We walk though the foothills of the Brandburg - makes a difference from all the sand, but as we come down again we start to run out of shade. This is not good - my water is already hot enough to make tea from. The thermometers soared over the fifty degree mark! 
But we made it back to camp, and even had time to discuss the evening entertainment - in which we were all expected to join in. The evening was good, and even with threats of rain we slept out side.
The completed water dam and hide

£2500 well spent
And so I come to the end of my adventure. We had one last look at the desert before climbing on the coach and making the long journey back to the UK
We spent one last night in a hotel? in Windhoek and the rain that those clouds had promised finally came - much to the delight of the locals. Again I managed to sleep on the coach - amazing considering the roads. 
In Johannesburg our flight was delayed due to a huge thunder storm righ over head, but finally we landed in typical November fog, and suddenly the heat can't really have been that bad, can it?