We are nearing the end of our fieldwork, and I’ve learned so much about working in a rural setting and in another country. The rural location means that there is a lot of driving most days—especially anytime we want to check out a new potential site. There is one main road through the reserve, but most of the time we are on 4-wheel-drive back roads that aren’t open to the public. We’ve learned a bit more about driving on dunes and through heavy sand—lower tire pressure, stay in second gear, keep your RPMs at 250, and keep up momentum…but not too fast (there was a steep learning curve for those last two and we ended up going too slow several times and having to back down the dune to try again)!
One of the amazing perks is that, in essence, we lead our own private safari drives when checking out new potential field sites and driving on the 4-wheel drive roads. Oryx and zebra are everyday sights, and we’ve also seen jackal and ostrich. On one of our first drives, we came across a dead Oryx with four jackals having quite a feast. It was an amazing sight to see! On another day we saw an ostrich with eight babies. They crossed the road right in front of us. Holly has become an ostrich feather seeker, and we have quite a collection in our truck to go along with the various grass specimens we’ve collected to identify on this trip to the wardens’ house.
We’ve been really fortunate to be able to stay on the reserve during our time here. They have several old ranch houses that are a mix of privately owned and now owned by the foundation. The houses all use solar power and have giant tanks of water that are trucked in. We ended up switching houses a few days ago since our power stopped working at the old house and it takes a long time to get the parts (at least a month in this location). While the move was a hassle, the new house is definitely an upgrade! It has a beautiful deck overlooking a watering hole, which is where we spend most of our evenings. There is a leopard currently using the waterhole by the house. While we haven’t been lucky enough to see her, we know she came by the house last night and was roaming around the dune right by Nichole’s window.
The house is built right next to the dunes to the point that the dunes are overtaking it in some locations. For example, the porch roof is only about 6 feet off the sands, as the area has filled in with the red sand of the dune system right behind it. I’m not sure where the house was in relation the the constantly shifting dunes when it was originally built, but right now it is an odd mix of the most beautiful location imaginable, but not very practical where it is impossible to keep the house sand-free for more than a half day.