This morning we finally exchanged our Christmas presents. There was a big variety ranging from a world without cheese for George and a wishing tree for Louisa, to a pair of wings for Genny. Although Jöelle’s back sadly can’t be fixed in real life and Sophia won’t be able to have bacon for breakfast until she gets home, we all enjoyed sharing the ideas we had for each other. After packing our stuff for our upcoming rafting trip and a delicious lunch we made our way to the South African border. It was a surreal feeling that we had taken this road only 2 weeks ago when we first started our adventure. After crossing the border we were all looking forward to stocking up on snacks at the local shop. Once we arrived at the rafting base we were greeted by our rafting leaders. Unfortunately we had to say our goodbyes to Mads who was heading back home. Having set up our tents we settled down for the evening, and even got to see some otters in the river.
As the water levels were lower than expected, the plan today was to learn the ropes with a few warm up games in our rafting pairs. After lunch we prepared ourselves for the worst case scenario as we practiced rescuing each other from the water. To finish off we had a refreshing swim back to camp. In order to warm up, leader Max attempted to teach us some tricks with the rafting paddles, which only Maddy and Nico had the determination to master! The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing by the river before heading off for a short hike. We reached the top of the hill just in time to watch a beautiful sunset over the river.
Before heading off on our overnight rafting trip we packed our tents and clothes up. To make sure our energy levels stayed high, we topped up with plenty of snacks from the shop. After a dusty drive to the drop off point, we secured all our stuff to our rafts and then had a chilled out afternoon on the river as we headed up stream to our camp for the first night. Having battled our way through lots of reeds we were tired once we reached camp and were ready to spend the evening around the camp fire, made by Dorus. The day was topped off with marshmallows, mars bars and star gazing.
Today we tried our luck with making our way over to the Namibian side of the river. However, we found that the water levels weren’t on our side so went back the way we came downstream. We stopped on a small island in the river where our leaders prepared us lunch, before our final push back to the pick up point. We met Andrea back at camp and after dinner leader Craig said goodbye with an emotional speech. He reminded us all how incredibly lucky we are to be part of this program, and how even small actions can make a big difference.
We woke up to good news, we had another opportunity to do some more rafting. This time heading downstream from camp, we played some games on the river and got the chance to watch some wildlife. After a long journey back to Oana, we were all over the moon to be back at base camp, especially when we spotted a full jar of chocolate biscuits. It was a particularly cold night so we all huddled around the fire before going to bed.
We stayed around base camp as we helped research leader Evie to clean and fix 197 small mammal traps. While Genny found her calling as a mechanic, fixing the traps, Louisa, Thea and Sophia were busy creating a new high energy snack for the small mammals made of peanut butter, oats and bovril. Not only did it go down a treat with a local ground squirrel, but also with Maddy and Nico! After dinner half the group went on a night drive to carry out a transect. Shining bright spot lights out from the back of the truck we saw lots of wildlife, including a couple of jackel spotted by Rob, and on oryx spotted by Sophia.
Today started with a busy morning as we prepared for our visit to the local community, Warmbad. While the rest of the group went off to continue work on the wildlife hide, Dorus, Louisa and Genny cooked up lunch to serve later at the community soup kitchen. Mid morning we set off in the trucks to Warmbad. After a quick tour around the village we got the chance to meet the community leader and spend some time with the local children. Our time was filled with clapping games, piggy back races, and the playground quickly turned into a hair salon as the children took an interest in plaiting all the girls’ long hair. We helped with serving up the soup before heading to the village library for our own lunch. After saying goodbye and taking final photos, some even taken by some of the kids under Maddy's guidance, we hopped in the trucks to head back to camp.