MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!!
It's certainly been a unique Christmas Day out here in Malawi.
We woke up to find out they were about to sacrifice a goat for Christmas dinner, they also had their own version of 'pigs in blankets' as they wrapped parts of the goats stomach in intestine just like we would traditionally wrap a sausage in bacon....
We saw the food prep but then Unfortunately news came in of an elephant that had been found dead and so at 9am we went out with a scout patrol to find it and try and determine whether or not it was a natural death.
The hike to the elephant was intense and when we got there we saw that it had in fact been poached. This was the first wild elephant Hannah had ever seen and it was a harsh wake up call for everyone when Christmas is supposed to be such a jolly day to be faced with this.
We were told the hike would be a round trip of 5km however in reality it was a 17km. Walking up and down hills, Laden with equipment, in the scorching midday sun with nowhere near enough water and with our bodies not yet acclimatised to the heat it took its toll on everyone and things quickly took a turn for the worse when Hannah blacked out from heat exhaustion and dehydration. This really is sentiment to what these scouts do every single day and how truly incredible it is the work they do.
By the time everyone got back to camp it was already 5pm and starting to get dark.. Not what we had expected for Christmas but nevertheless everyone wanted to have a good evening and so once rehydrated with water and electrolytes we joined the scouts at the main hut to enjoy Christmas.
We danced and then ate a wonderful meal cooked by Lynn (the manager here at Thuma forest reserve), then it was time to hand out the stockings...
Unfortunately not all 42 scouts were present, the majority were still out on patrol but a stocking was given to each person present and the rest will be given out as the scouts return over the next few weeks.
Those that received them were in shock and so happy for everything they received. Perhaps the most touching part was when we showed the the letters from members of the British pubic thanking them for their work and calling them heroes. They said they didn't know anyone else cared or really knew what they were doing and so were overwhelmed when reading the letters and everyone was silent and taking it all in.
Everyone sat around talking and listening to music and then slowly drifted off to bed ready to begin work again tomorrow.
This morning we went out looking for elephants but with no luck. Meanwhile a lead has already come in on the dead elephant and so Lynn the manager went to the village police station to interview the informers.
We've been working on the bicycle projector today and it's coming together really well.
As I'm writing this more terrible news has just come in, a baby elephant has also now been found dead. It is the baby of the mother elephant found yesterday, too young to survive without its mother we believe it has been attacked by hyenas. We are going to see if we can find it tomorrow morning. This is another harsh reality, when an elephant is shot it isn't just the life of that one elephant being affected, elephants have such strong family bonds and in this case another young life has been lost.
Whilst for most the Christmas period is a time for celebration we've learnt that it can actually be the busiest time for poaching.
The baby elephant was found this morning and a team went again to the mother elephant to see if they could find out anymore information, unfortunately no more information was unfolded.
Today's work included building a stand with the scouts for the projector screen so it now hangs nicely on the car.
We also tested the drone that has been kindly sponsored to us by DJI drones. We flew it out over the forest and it certainly captured the beauty of where we are.
This evening word came in of 3 more informers so Hannah and Jamie set out with Lynn to go and speak to them. After a 2 hour drive to the village the meeting took place it was informative but sadly didn't provide a solid lead.
What an eventful day!!!!!!!!
So after the fiasco of paying for our excess baggage, upon arrival in Malawi we found out that in fact 2 of our bags had gone missing! Thankfully we have all of the camera and bike projector equipment with us as well as the Christmas gifts for the scouts!
One of the bags was Hannah's personal bag so she'll be walking around in the same clothes for the next 6 weeks!!
There's been set backs with the car and overall everything has been a lot harder ...than we anticipated.
We're remaining positive though and we'll persevere until everything is back on track!
It's been a manic 48hours but we're going to get some rest and start afresh tomorrow.
We're pleased to say that our bags eventually turned up and we're now in Thuma Forest Reserve!
We woke up early and immediately set about sorting out the car, it took a few hours but in the end all was well.
We also decorated it to make it feel more official and we're pretty pleased with how it turned out.
After running around the markets to pick up the last few essentials eg. A map! We were on our way...
Jamie was the designated driver and after stopping at the airport to collect the lost bags we headed on to Thuma. We passed many villages along the way and stopped to speak to people when we could. Hannah's been trying to learn the language (Chichewa) and it must be going well because she received a marriage proposal from a local villager!
We arrived late in the evening and there were just a few people around because everyone else was out on patrol. Even on Christmas Eve there's no stopping, the work continues.
Before everyone returned Hannah sat and by candlelight filled all the stockings with the gifts for the scouts ready for tomorrow.
As We're writing this we're looking out over the Thuma forest which is visible by he light of the moon. We can hear the forest alive with the sound of the wildlife and we have a perfect view for when Santa comes in his sleigh.