Namibia '97- The Campsite Project
by Nora Barrows-Friedman, Brenda Peterson,
Anna Novey & Matt Ostermann
The main focus of this trip was our project at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. CCF needed help to build a camping facility at the ranch, where large groups of people of all ages could stay overnight, when they came to learn first hand about CCF, the cheetah and its surrounding ecosystem. With incredible assistance from our parents, we had collected camping equipment to leave with CCF, which will accommodate up to 20 people staying at the site.
The chosen campsite was about a 25 minute drive out in the bush right at the foot of the Waterberg Plateau. The ruin of a stone cabin left by a previous farmer was to be the camp's kitchen and storage space. Just above that was a flat area that would become our sleeping area.
We formed work teams to carve the campground out of the bush. Half of us worked at the ruins. We had to rebuild broken walls and put in windowsills. Many of us had never done this type of work. Plus we had the unusual circumstances of doing all this in the African Bush. The water and sand were down a hill and we transported it by wheelbarrow. We built steps up to the ruins, that would allow easier access to the building. Soon the building wouldn't be able to be called the Ruins anymore.
We had to blaze a good trail up to the campsite. On first view the area was overgrown and we couldn't imagine it becoming a campground. But it actually didn't take long, even under the hot winter sun. We leveled the ground, established the tent sites, built fire pits, a table and benches. We also had to install the all important pit toilets.
At the work site, for the first two days I cleared brush--which was actually quite fun because I got to swing a big ole hoe/pick axe looking thing. It was great to see what we accomplished in such a short time. It already was looking more like a camp.
The third day I helped with the mortaring down at the little house. I never had done that before and it was really cool. At first I felt like I was in the way because no one told me how to do it so I just tried and did it the best way I could. Finally I started working with Ben Heraseb who actually taught me how to do it right and then I felt like I was really helping.
We went up to the camp and started work. It was the most fun on the whole trip. We had a goal to finish the stairs at the Ruins and we did it. After a lot of work they looked great. There were lots of compliments on the stairs which made our whole crew really feel like we did a good thing.
After three days--and once the toilets were finished, the camp was ready for us to move our tents up from the CCF ranch. It was an important and tangible accomplishment to be the first group to stay at the new site, even as we were still working on it. Goodbye showers, electricity, refrigerator and telephone. We were roughing it in the middle of the African bush.
It was amazing how we worked together--doing really hard manual labor while teaching each other traditional songs and jokes, and talking about our lives. The campsite became our baby, from a ruin and an open rocky space to a place where our cooperation and pride built a working facility for generations of visitors to CCF.