Africa 2016: Patrol Week 2

We received some bad news during my second build week – a young bull elephant in Mama Afrika’s herd may have been shot during the week. Top of our list of priorities for Patrol Week was to find them.

It didn’t take us long to find an elephant. Turning a corner to find a large body lying in the riverbed, we thought the worst. Luckily, it was just Bennie having a nap. He glanced up at the sound of our approaching vehicles, but the resident elephants recognise the EHRA vehicles, so he went straight back to sleep.

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Sleepy Bennie. Some people say that elephants are too large to lie down, but these desert-adapted elephants do it all the time.

We found the other herds in the Ugab river during the day – G6, and Ugab Small – but no sign of Mama Afrika’s herd.

As we set up camp that night, we noticed clouds for the first time on my trip. Dark clouds. We usually sleep under the stars on Patrol Week, but just before bed we put a tarpaulin sheet over our sleeping mats ‘just in case’. Once the rain hit, it took maybe 5 minutes to discover that the tarpaulin was not going to do us much good. It took 10 minutes for everything to be completely soaked through.

Coping mechanisms divided starkly into 2: half of us ran around like headless chickens screaming ‘WHAT IS LIFE?’, the other half nestled into their sleeping bags and slept through the storm. I finally found a dry spot underneath one of the cars, for once thankful that I am a tiny human, and slept there for the night. My pillow and sleeping mat became storm casualties, so my sleeping bag was wet and dirty in the sand, but at least I was sheltered.

The following morning, everything was soaking wet. But the elephants were still out there so we dusted off, rolled everything up and hit the road.

We finally found Mama Afrika’s herd after lunch, and spotted a wound on Ulysses’ shoulder. He let us get really close, and we watched him scratching it with his trunk, and blowing dust and water onto it to create a protective coating. We were glad to report that he is on the road to recovery.

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Ulysses nursing his wound.

The following day brought more elephants. On the way to set up camp for lunch, we were introduced to a young bull called Kambonde, and were warned to keep a hold of our things because he has a naughty habit of stealing things from the cars. True to form, Kambonde headed straight for our car and didn’t stop until his trunk was inside the vehicle, feeling around our feet. It definitely sounds silly to say, but you really do not appreciate how big an elephant is until its trunk is at your feet. Kambonde is ginormous, and he isn’t even fully grown. I had also never appreciated how beautiful their trunks are, and seeing it so close was an unforgettable experience.

You can read about my Build Week here.

You can read about my first Patrol Week here.

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