Guess who’s back (back, back). Back again, (‘gain, ‘gain).
It’s me, Popizzle – real name, no gimmicks. Throwin’ back to a bit of early 00’s rap. No regrets….
So I’ve been off the radar for waaay too long, but I have an excuse. I’ve been visiting other continents, meeting new people, and doing a whole lot of cool once-in-a-lifetime type things. Not to brag or anything. Remember that you can’t beat a kiwi summer.
There were many moments during my travels that were an environmental challenge or experience. I’m going to be reflecting on these over the coming months, but first I want to talk about a really special project that I was involved in for a fortnight in Namibia.
The Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) is an award winning conservation project dedicated to conserving desert-adapted elephants by working to reduce the conflicts between humans and elephants in the harsh environment of the Namib Desert. They monitor the movements of the herds, protect and build water points, and educate locals on the best way to peacefully coexist with the giant, glorious, dangerous, clever, and thirsty grey mammals who j-chill in the area. It’s a pretty full on job, and they rely on the help of volunteers who want to lend a hand and have an awesome experience at the same time. Elephants have always been my favourite animals, and seeing them in real life was definitely on my bucket list. Helping contribute to a safer natural environment for them? Even better.
Namibia is one of the sunniest countries in the world, with around 300 days of sun per year. The reality of this is the country is thirsty. I was in the project during September, just as winter is ending and the dry season coming to a close. It is blatantly obvious how precious and rare water is, especially in the rural areas. And of course this isn’t just an issue for people; even small flies constantly dive-bomb your eyes and mouth in search of moisture. I mean I’m all for eating insects, but I’m not so keen on them getting in contact with my eyeballs.
Elephants have also had to adapt to this environment and sometimes this causes issues with locals. In the area where my project was based, elephants had detected water sources by smell and dug up pipes at the local school. EHRA runs in two-week blocks, and our first week was dedicated to building an alternative water point in a dried up riverbed nearby.
The first week was challenging but so fulfilling – digging, collecting rocks, and mixing cement in 40 degree heat on some days! We were a group of fourteen from all over the world, ranging in ages from eighteen to eighty-seven (!!) but we all chipped in and managed to finish the structural wall within the five days. The team leaders really made the job a lot easier, as the actual construction of the wall is much more difficult than it first seems…
We would start our days very early with coffee in bed, delivered by the pair on duty, the gulp down some porridge and get to work. The evenings would be spent chatting, napping, playing games, eating delicious food, freestylin’ some rhymes, and admiring the gorgeous stars from one of the best viewing spots in the Southern Hemisphere. Can’t complain.
After Build Week finished we enjoyed a weekend at Base Camp, finally grabbing a quick shower, visiting the local town for an afternoon, and sleeping on an open-aired platform in a tree. Elephants would walk right past us in the night, pausing to munch on branches from our tree/bed. Talk about rude awakenings yo.
The second week is a reward for the hard labour of build week. We go on patrol! Imagine rocking around in sick land cruisers, taking note of the location and activities of various herds, spotting lots of other rad animals, and sleeping under the open sky in the desert. Bad-ass.
We spent lots of time watching the elephants of course, but also saw many different types of antelope, birds, jackal, baboons, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, and even lions!
I cannot stress how gorgeous and ever-changing the landscape is, even in a relatively small geographical distance. White sand, red rock, red sand, green and brown grass, scrub, sand, plains, hills, sandy riverbeds. Sand. This is the desert after all. I was very content to just sit in my sleeping bag in the back of the cruiser watching the beauty go by, and this is only partly because I am a lazy sloth-human.
- Sleeping under the open sky in the desert
- A scorpion running over my foot while I brushed my teeth one night… Eek
- Seeing an elephant in real life for the first time
- Cooking delicious meals over the fire each night
- Eating, learning, sleeping, and joking with a bunch of awesome folks
- Having so much while simultaneously living in a simplified way – very little food wasted, very little rubbish, strict conservation of water
- Sun-downers. The beauty of the country in general really
- Meeting local farmers, and visiting the local school
- Learning about elephant/human conflicts, why they occur and how to solve them
I mean, based on my waffling reminiscences it was clearly an incredible experience for me. And it can be for you too! Check out the website and get involved. Yes, it does cost a bit of money, but that goes towards your food and supplies, salary for the employees, and simply keeping an important organisation doing good stuff. I recommend doing the project and also taking time to explore the gorgeous country that is Namibia – it makes the big trip over a bit more justifiable. I spent five weeks there and it was legit.
Aight OG’s. That’s a (w)RAP for this month. A huge thanks to the team at EHRA for such a life changing experience. And big ups to my cousin Giles for putting up with my company for five weeks – may your life be blessed with many guineafowl moments. As usual, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!
Peace out, homies.
header image via http://www.desertelephant.org
all other photos belong to Poppy Stowell