Settling In

It's Sunday night. Tomorrow will make one week in the field for me and I am starting to figure a few things out. I search for elephants each morning and evening and return to camp to organize and rest during the grueling midday. We have had nice weather the past 3 days, giving a small break in the temperature (last night I was comfortable while fully covered by my sheet), and providing exceptionally clear skies. The first day of the clear weather I discovered for the first time that there is an impressive rock escarpment on the horizon some 60 km to the south. I hope the good weather continues, but I get the feeling it is just a small teaser of tolerable conditions before the Harmattan starts to blow again, sand fills the air, and May earns its reputation as the hottest month of the year. There is still some residual water in some of the outlying low areas and the Banzena swamp itself is quite full. It could be up to two weeks before the elephants really need to concentrate by the water in the daytime. Lately they have been able to hold out in the surrounding scrub and come to the lake under the cover of darkness. Last night there was an army of elephants quite close to the camp, rustling trees, growling, splashing and trumpeting. Unable to make photos, I recorded their sounds with a video camera. This afternoon I set up a camera trap on a trail well worn by elephants. The on site preparations took about 2 hours and just as I had loaded the film and started the final test, an elephant started coming down the trail. We gathered our things in a hurry and backed away to watch. It was quite suspenseful to see the animal approach the section of trail where the camera was waiting. I was hoping to see my flashes go off in the twilight, but the elephant stopped and deviated right just before the camera. Our scent was too fresh in the area. The scent will fade and others elephants will come soon enough. Richard and Emmanuel, the researchers for the elephant ID project, went to town today to get supplies and new tires for the Toyota. The trucks are equipped with light-duty tires and as a result we are suffering an average of one flat tire per day per vehicle. Each vehicle carries 2 complete spares and there are some days we have gone through both. The drivers, Ibraham and Papa, have against their will become experts in tire service. Some punctures are inevitable in acacia country, but daily punctures can be demoralizing. Aiming to keep spirits high in camp, this evening I bought a goat from a local herder and brought it home for dinner.View new photography at www.carltonward.com