Off to Neuras

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
Trip End Jul 17, 2013

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Flag of Namibia  , Omaheke,
Saturday, June 29, 2013

Woke up at 6:45. Went outside to walk to the restroom and to brush my teeth. I must have forgotten what life at the farm was like because I found it exciting and surprising to have a monkey running at me. Come to find out, the girl who had Sheila last night had come out to make her morning bottle and Sheila was on the run, as always. It was quite a confidence boost to know that even though I had been gone for a week, she still remembered me and we were still on good terms. She climbed all over me and wanted her back petted (they do that when they respect you). She also made happy noises. (When I get home if you'd like a good laugh, ask me to make baboon happy noises. We are taught to do them back to the baboon as a sign of acceptance and approval... I've noticed that my baboon noises have also carried over to when I talk to any other animal as well... Ralph will be in for a treat.) I was in a bit of a hurry to get ready though, so I kept trying to sneak away when she would hop off of me. Every time she would spot me and leap on as I was trying to escape. Finally, she latched on to someone else she recognized, just as the big baby baboons escaped from their enclosure. It was definitely time for me to hide in my room (few people are even seen as dominate enough to even chase after the bigger baboons and tackle or corral or do whatever is necessary to them in order to get them back into their cage).

I did manage to find time to grab a jelly covered piece of bread before loading onto the van.

Then we drove a good three hours to a place where we met the Neuras workers. There we switched the returning people vehicles. Bradley and a few of my other compadres from the farm were among those exchanged, and Bradley and I shared our experiences over the past week.

There wasn't enough room in the car for everyone, so I volunteered to ride in the back of the truck. Another girl, an Australian named Fiona, kindly hopped in as well to keep me company, not out of necessity. When offered the front seat of the truck, she turned it down. It was a forty minute drive into the mountains and it was nice having her company. We chatted the whole way. She had arrived at the farm the night before I left for the clinic, so I hadn't even met her until today.

We arrived at Neuras. I'm uncertain if I've mentioned it before, but aside from bring a research center, it was originally brought up as a vineyard and still produces wine today. It's known as the driest vineyard in the world. Apparently there are several natural springs in this area of desert that make it possible to grow red grapes. With all of this being said, it was built to be appealing to guests and tourists... A bit different than the farm.

We found out that there aren't enough rooms for all of us. And my name got drawn out of the hat to spend half of my stay in a tent (funny how quickly everyone forgets that you volunteered to ride in the back of a truck when no one else wanted to). At least the tents have beds and aren't awful by any means. We are also further south and it is quite a bit warmer here.

We had lunch, which consisted of a roll, meat, and cheese with a fantastic egg salad. Then we were allowed a good three hours to get settled. I showered as I hadn't since yesterday morning and my hair was awful after the open air ride through the mountains. Then I wandered back to the dining area, which seems to be the commons. There are currently three Matts at Neuras... Matt who is employed, Matt who is a student studying conservation from Duke University doing camera trap research, and Matt that volunteers and roomed with Chris and Bradley (Chris is also here). Matt that is employed drove the truck I rode in. Research Matt kept Brittany and I company while we waited for 4:30 to roll around (up designated meet up time). He let us go through camera trap photos he was working on and count them on excel. We had to put the date, time, camera number, photo range, photo number of image showing the most of the species, species, number of most in photo, and number of male and female if kudu of ostrich for each group of animals that set off the camera traps. It might not seem too difficult, but when this means attempting to count up to 25 springbok around a waterhole, it gets a bit complicated. Even five zebra can be hard to spot. Also consider that pictures are taken in bursts of 4 and between each series of photos there is only a 30 second reset period. This means it wasn't unusual for us to have 200 photos of the same group of springbok. Unfortunately, in the bunch of pictures we sorted out, we didn't see leopard or cheetah.

Then we all grabbed drinks (I got brave and tried Savanna Dry cider) and headed out for a sundowner. I didn't really know what to expect... I thought surely we wouldn't waste the gas to drive through the mountains just to dink and watch the sunset... But we did. We sat on top of a large mound (or a teeny mountain) and watched the sunset together. Beautiful reds and oranges… So incredible.

Then we returned for dinner which consisted of a ground beef and cheese dish, rice with raisins, and coleslaw.

Everyone picked out a movie and we began to watch Anchorman. It's a bit different only having 13 total people on the property (plus the bushmen) than having 30-50 (plus the bushmen).

I think I will really enjoy my stay here. The people are lovely, the place is lovely, I'm sure the wine is lovely.

I did mess up and give everyone an emergency number (my Namibian cell number) and told them they could reach me there... I forgot that Neuras has no service... Oops.

As for now, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow I have to write that midterm paper for the credits I'm getting for this trip. It may or may not be due on Monday... Procrastination at its best.
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