The beginnings of a new adventure

Well well well, it's been a while, eh?  What's been happening in the life of the vegan that loves carnivores?  Let's see 'ere...

  1. I got back safely from my overland truck tour around southern Africa to the UK and started a PhD at the University of Kent.  My focus is on finding out ways for carnivores to coexist with farmers; read more about it here.
  2. I've spent the last 10 months researching into my topic and planning for the logistics and methods in the field.
  3. I now have only one week until I go out into the field - scary!
 I was saying to a friend today who is planning her wedding that sorting out things for my PhD must be sort of like organising a wedding - so much to do, so many details to think about, so many people to keep happy and you know that no amount of planning will ever make everything go perfectly when it comes down to it! I guess you just have to think positively, go with the flow and ensure that you're as prepared as you can be in the event of a problem!

Like many young conservationists, I've spent my fair share of time travelling the world to different volunteer projects, so you would assume that by now I'd be pretty accustomed to packing my bag and heading off to the wilderness again.  However, this time is different; previously, I've had another organisation to help me along the way and who has been there to sort the logistics out.  This time, I'm completely on my own.  And to make matters worse, not only am I having to literally sort everything out, but I'm also having to buy a car for the first time in my life!  Now, I've not "owned" my own car since I was 18 - and when I say own, what I actually mean is borrow from my sister when she didn't need it.  Plus, that was a tiny Ford Fiesta that I drove around the pleasant country roads of Cambridgeshire.  In Namibia, where I'll be based for my fieldwork, I'll be buying a mahoosive 4x4 beast of a truck to navigate through the dusty, sandy, muddy and pothole-ridden roads of southern Africa.  Eek!

As some of you may have remembered from my posts whilst in Namibia the last time, I wasn't really what one would call the best driver in the world...  Since getting back to the UK though I have booked myself into some AA driver's training lessons, along with a hardcore all-day training event with an ex-military/MET police transport officer, where we spent 9 hours driving around forests, bogs and quarries.  Hopefully now I'm a little more prepared for what's to come, but I can't say I'm not extremely anxious about the whole thing!

I've kept in touch with people back at Cheetah Conservation Fund as I will be working in collaboration with them for my PhD.  Fortunately enough, the general manager got an email from the director of NamibRand Nature Reserve, who was selling two of the reserve's vehicles.  One was a fantastic Toyota Hilux, which I've since arranged to buy - very exciting!  Here's a few pics of the beauty.

For a 5'3" slight lady, I have a feeling I'll look like a mouse atop an elephant, but at least this bad boy should hopefully get me through anything the Namibian roads have to throw at me!

Besides from organising my own car, I've also had to find my own accommodation.  It would've been easy to stay with CCF, but I really wanted to go out and live with farmers to be directly around them and learn their ways when it comes to farming in a landscape shared with wildlife.  Now, finding a place to stay on a farm in a country half way around the other side of the world, in a place with limited internet, where some people don't even speak English, was challenging.  However, fortunately a lovely lady at CCF offered to put an advert in the local news for me to ask for any farmers who had a spare room at their place.  As luck would have it, a friendly-sounding livestock farmer south of Otjiwarongo contacted me and has a whole bungalow on their farm estate available to rent!  It's called Ouhave and here are some photos.

The beautiful native Nguni cattle - look at their horns!

One of the guest houses next to the swimming pool (NB I won't be staying anywhere as luxurious as this!)

The generous owner did say that I can have as much meat and milk as I like for free, which is a little bit lost on a vegan, but my mum did make a very valid point that maybe I can barter with someone else for some veg with it!

So this time next week I'll be on a plane heading to Windhoek (via Cairo and Johannesburg - yawn).  If all goes according to plan, I'll pick up my car that day, head to Otjiwarongo and CCF the following day, and move into my new home at the farm by mid-July to officially start my fieldwork stage of my PhD.  Exciting!  Although somewhat terrifying too!

Watch this space.


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