It’s blazing hot and there’s a mini sand storm forming as we zoom down dusty roads. I’m thirsty, tired, smelly, and standing on the back of the truck next to bowls of fresh cheetah food. Just as I start to lose all hope, I look to my left and see cheetahs running alongside the truck. They put all other animals to shame as they run gracefully in all their glory. Dusty wind in my hair and a smile on my lips; I am in awe.
I help lift the crate from the back of the truck. The cheetah in the crate is growling and hissing. Sweat starts to run down my temples. She bumps around in the crate angrily. Laurie begins to count, “1”, we move out of the way and scramble up another truck to get a good view, “2”, the two cheetahs, each in their own crates, can be heard hissing and spitting over the silence. Cameras are hastily being positioned to capture the moment that is coming “3!” The keepers and Laurie slide the doors of the two crates open and two blurs race out into the open. And they’re gone. Free.
He’s a curious dog, but a little wimpy. He’s eager to start his walk as he pulls on the leash to inspect everything and anything we come across. We make our way up to Leopard Hill. Steadily making our way up to the peak, we walk on sandy roads, pass by acacia trees and trek through the tall grass. Every now and then, I reassure him with comforting pats and hugs when strange sounds scare him. I think to myself, “give me strength to hold on if we come across a warthog!” The sun starts to dip a little lower, cooling my skin. We reach the top where I can see for miles in every direction. Nesbit joins me as I sit down on an old termite mound, flourishing me with one too many face licks, and together we watch the sun set in the Namibian sky.
It’s been a long day. Endless days filled with cleaning pens, tidying kraals, and feeding dogs. It’s late when I decide to haul myself out of the office. I decide to take a little detour and end up climbing the creaky wooden steps up to the top of the old water tower. I join a few others that are already there. The last few moments of sun bathes the sky in red and after is blanketed with darkness. But out of that darkness twinkles billions of stars. Tonight, last night, tomorrow night and every night is, was and will be like this. I look up just in time to see my first shooting star and I make a wish.
I wish that I could describe every amazing moment that I have experienced during my 5 weeks at CCF, but then there would be no surprises for some of you that might visit in the future. I decided to spend part of my gap year here to gain more experience with wildlife and that is exactly what I got to do – and more. I am so happy that I decided to end my four-month African adventure with CCF. I have learned a great deal and am so excited to begin my undergraduate studies in Animal Science and Wildlife Conservation at the University of California Davis in the fall.
It’s been an honor to have been help out the wonderful team that runs CCF. Thank you, everybody. I will miss you all, especially Nesbit, the goofiest Anatolian Shepherd dog I have ever met.