T+168 hours: The first two days

The internet’s working! – I just hope I’m still online as soon as I’m done with this post.

I arrived at the CCF on Sunday at about 23:30. We had to pick a few people up in and around Windhoek and at the airport. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed and we had to wait for quite a while until the other volunteers finally got off of the plane.

Monday was mostly spent introducing the CCF to the volunteers, but we got to work as well. What’s very nice about staying here is the accomodation – you get to live in a small rondavel (with two beds inside) close to the enclosure with five female cheetahs. I was the first one to spot said cheetahs on the first morning.

The first real job we did yesterday was check camera traps. These traps use motion sensors and shoot a picture whether an animal’s passing by them. They usually are placed so they face each other in order to get a picture of either side of the animal. Obviously, the CCF is trying to get pictures of cheetahs marking their territories which they usually do close to playtrees and termite mounds. We changed a few batteries and also one film roll, but since orientation took rather long we didn’t get to finish checking all of the cameras. In the evening, there was a lottery – a nice farmer had called because he caught a cheetah (we’ll be doing a workup on her tomorrow and see if she really is a female), so all the volunteers got a chance to “win” a ride to the farm. There was only space for three people on the truck, and unfortunately I didn’t get one of the papers with the stars on it. I just hope there’ll be another call tomorrow.

Today I have started work on the Conservancy’s waterhole report. Basically, I will be analyzing data in order to help extrapolate population data for possible cheetah prey and other animals. As for my own studies, I still haven’t had any time for them yet. I have observed a lot of interesting things, though, which I will need to write down. I also got to feed about 25 Cheetahs, most of them females. After getting rid of donkey heads on the boneyard we went to the farm where we fed the Cheetahs (most of them are pretty bad-tempered – they spit, stomp and hiss!) from the moving pickup. Some of them really are excellent at that – once the meat has been thrown it doesn’t touch the ground anymore. Others tend to be more relaxed about it and wait for something to fall onto the ground. It was nice driving in between 12 cheetahs, all running behind, in front or next to the car.

I’ve been able to shoot some pretty decent pictures so far, and of course I’m hoping to get more. Shouldn’t be difficult since there’s another cheetah run scheduled for tomorrow at eight in the morning. The cheetahs that are going to run tomorrow are Harry, Ron and Hermione – the Hogwarts group (it has only later been found out that Harry is in fact a Sherry). The females that ran on Monday were actually kind of lazy, I hope the mixed group does better.

Apart from checking more cameras I’ll be cleaning the quarantine pens as well as the (empty) Leopard enclosure tomorrow. We hopefully will soon be getting a chance of meeting Chewbaaka and LittleC, the cheetah ambassadors – something I’ve been looking forward for years!

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T+69 hours: Windhoek

Yesterday as well as today I was able to go into town a bit. I was told a lot about the city, but also how to behave. If you look like a tourist, act like a tourist and think like a tourist, you may not be really safe, especially in less crowded areas.

Everything went nice, though. The people here in Windhoek are very nice, a lot of them seem to be smiling all the time. As I had suspected, the traffic here is quite different from Germany, though. Rules don’t seem to be enforced (in fact, there hardly seems to be police on the streets) and driving on the left side of the road is something I’ll still have to get used to.

Today, I ate at Ocean Basket, a very nice restaurant with very tasty and affordable meals, sent a few postcards to Germany and, since I had plenty of time back at Bwanapolis and figured it was something useful, I translated the English Wikipedia article about the Cheetah Conservation Fund and, after a few enhancements, created the German version. I hope I’ll be able to show it to someone at CCF who speaks German so they can look it over.

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T+38 hours: Arrived in one piece…

…and even all my baggage went through. Had some problems at customs in Namibia (I should’ve brought a pen with me) which caused me to be one of the last to leave, but I was immediately picked up and brought to Bwanapolis. We went in a rather cool-looking old Mercedes (way too fast, but nobody seems to care here) and I was told a lot about the Namibian landscape, the trees, mountains, how Windhoek consists of different sections etc.

Unfortunately, I’m far too tired to remember such a lot of stuff, and when we arrived at Bwana Tucke-Tucke and I met Carsten (the proprietor), I was told names. I’m bad at remembering names… especially if tired. This’ll be embarrassing.

The first flight was delayed, but thus I didn’t have to wait the full three hours in Johannesburg, so this worked out for me. I’ve got terrible muscle ache, and I hope it gets better soon. I really should’ve moved more on the plane. I slept like a brick and – of course – forgot to adjust the alarm clock to the local time and got up late.

I’ll be staying at Bwana for about 4 days, and then the CCF will come and pick me up here. The people here are all very friendly and I understand most of their English. I suppose that’s a good sign. Too bad I don’t speak any of the other common languages here – well, maybe except from German. 😉

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T-21 hours: luggage is heavy

Yes, I know, lame title, but let me explain.

I’m allowed to bring 20 kilograms of luggage with me, plus 8 kg of carry-on luggage. After stuffing all the clothing needed for about three weeks of staying in Africa as well as a few gadgets into my bag, I have almost reached the limit and bringing more will cost me money. Also, my trolley already weighs in at 3.6 kilograms, making it difficult to keep below the limit when your laptop adds two more to that. This will require some fiddling, I guess.

In any case, I’ll be departing from Frankfurt in a little less than 21 hours. My mother’s been acting excitedly all day long, but I managed to keep cool so far, but now, the nervousness is slowly affecting me as well. This will be my first time flying alone, and it’s quite an exciting thought. So far, I’ve been following the CCF’s Namibia volunteer guide closely (you can find it on the right side of the page detailing how volunteering in Namibia looks like), and I must say it’s good it exists… I’m sure I would forget a lot of things without it.

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T-4 days: packing the bags

Oh dear. It never occurred to me that packing would be so difficult. Eight kilograms are allowed as carry-on luggage and with the trolley already weighing in at about 3.6 kg, getting some emergency clothing (in case my bag gets lost), my laptop and camera in there will be a tough job.

I think I’ll manage, but there’s certainly not too much room to be wasted.

Today I’ll have to do some last-minute shopping (well, not really last-minute yet, but still…). I still want to get a clipboard in case I don’t discover one in my father’s stuff. I also may have to get some other things, but I’ll see what is needed in the morning.

Even more nervous today. It just doesn’t go away anymore 😉

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