Monday, 29 October 2007

Phase 1 - The Last Week

Phase 1 only has a few days left, so everyone here in Turrialba can’t wait for the groups to get back and hear all of their amazing stories. This is the last blog for Phase 1. Log on soon to see photos from Phase 1, read all about what is happening at changeover, as well as who will be going where on Phase 2.

Alpha 1
Alpha 1 have had incredible weather this week, making their walk along the Maribios volcano chain absolutely stunning. They were joined by the gang of four from Field Base in Bravo 1 last night, so much fun was had around the camp fire. Jane and Iain from FB walked with the group up Volcan Consiguina, to ensure that there will be lots of photos of A1 when they return from Nicaragua. Breaking news just in…Alpha 1 have radioed Field Base to say that they have made it to the beach at Machapa, which means all members have successfully completed the mighty Maribios trek. Congratulations to them all – an awesome achievement

Alpha 2
At the beginning of the week, Tom & Amanda visited Alpha 2 in Santa Maria to resupply them with food. The group were on excellent form and raring to go for their last week. Since the last blog, they have continued onwards to the Pacific, climbing Rincon de la Vieja volcano on the way. Breaking news just in…Chris McPhee has radioed in to Field Base to say that A2 completed a mammoth 32km final day in order to reach the beach a day early. They are currently watching the sun go down over the ocean, while the sauasages and bugers are cooking on the barbie – bliss! Congratulations on an incredible achievement.

Alpha 3
With the miserable weather of last week well and truly gone, Alpha 3 were treated to the unbelievable scenery from the top of the volcano for the first time, which stretches all the way to the Caribbean. The group did an awesome job this week clearing the rest of the trail to the viewpoint, carving out and putting in drainage ditches, and preparing both sides of the peak for the construction of a mirador on each side looking to either coast. They were treated to two visits this week, both bearing gifts of very welcome junk food! Tom and Naomi from Field Base will be joining them for the last few days of the phase. On Sunday, A3 took a day trip down the hill to Central, where they stuffed their faces with yet more junk food and attended a gala day at the local school – the perfect place to practice their Spanish and teach the kids some English.

Alpha 4
Alpha 4 now all have bulging biceps due to the awesome amount of trench digging they did in the last week. The week started with a new member joining the group – Daniel Carr was warmly welcomed to A4 and got stuck right in. They finished digging their trail, and are now ready to lay the pipes. Due to all of their hard work, they took a well earned day off on Sunday to visit some waterfalls and rivers deep into La Cangreja National Park. To celebrate the end of their phase, the rangers are organising a day of fun for the guys to thank them for their contribution. Tomorrow they are heading to Manuel Antonio National Park, and the day after the rangers are throwing a party and cooking a barbecue for them - a thoroughly deserved reward.

Alpha 5
A5 followed in the steps of A4 and did a serious amount of trench digging this week. They have now dug the trenches from the source to several houses. The exciting news this week was that the pipes arrived from Achuapa, meaning that they can move onto the next stage of the project. On Sunday, the group had a relaxing day off, watching their Maestro de Obra (foreman) playing for the local baseball team – unfortunately his team lost, but a good pitching performance was put in nonetheless. Tomorrow will be Alpha Five’s last day in the community before they begin the long journey back home to Turrialba.

Alpha 6
Alpha 6 made major advances on the construction of their school. The weather had restricted them in the first week, so since then they have finished the foundations and completed the four lower walls – excellent progress that sets up the next group nicely to finish on time. Alpha 6 had some R & R on Sunday – some went fishing with the locals at a nearby river, some played football, and some watched the baseball. Tomorrow is also A6’s last day in the community before the two day bus ride back to Field Base – we can’t wait to see them.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

The North Fulham New Deal for Communities & Raleigh International Expedition to Tayni, October 2007

On Saturday, the 19 students and 3 staff members from Fulham flew back to London having had an incredible 10 days on expedition with Raleigh International in Costa Rica.

As detailed in the previous blog, the group had an induction day at Field Base in Turrialba. For full details as well as names of all involved, scroll down. On Sunday morning everyone boarded the bus and headed down to the Caribbean, and then onto Finca Vesta. From here they were met by Roger and Junior, two members of the Tayni Indigenous community. Roger and Junior had eight horses, which were used to transport the tools and food that the group would need. The walk into Boca Coen, where the group would be living and working, was a three-hour walk under very hot and humid conditions. It was quite a challenge, so all felt very relieved upon being greeted by the locals. As soon as introductions were done, the students were shown their accommodation for the week, which was a floor in the health centre - luxury! The locals cooked all of the meals, so they were treated to delicious rice & beans and coffee three times a day.

First thing Monday morning, the group was split into two – half had to cross the river to go to Isla Coen, where help was needed in completing the build of a new school, and half stayed in Boca Coen, where lots of painting was required! Those who crossed the river had to carry and saw wood, nail the walls up, and generally try to get as much of the building up as possible. There was also a school kitchen to paint, which was completed by the students. Those who stayed in Boca Coen painted a secondary school, the school kitchen and toilets, and the new teachers’ house. All of these buildings, apart from the teachers’ house, had been built by Raleigh on a previous expedition.

At the end of each working day, everyone had the pleasure of bathing in the local river. This became quite a ritual and something which everyone looked forward to after a hard days work. One afternoon they also managed to fit in some fishing, and one of the local boys caught a shrimp!

On the final night in Boca Coen, the group did a ‘jungle camp’, which meant that everyone had to put up a hammock and spend the night sleeping out in the jungle, with snakes, scorpions and lots of other interesting creatures! Even though it rained a lot, and there was mud everywhere, a great time was had by all, and the hammocks provided some comfort after three nights of sleeping on the health center floor!

After all of their hard work, the crew from Fulham were due some rest & relaxation. So after another arduous walk out of the reserve, this time involving the use of some indigenous rafts to do a river crossing, they were back in Finca Vesta - first stop: the local pulperia to buy them out of all chocolate, cold drinks and ice cream! The bus was boarded again, and they headed back to the Caribbean, this time to stay in a well-deserved hotel. Within minutes of checking in, everyone was in the sea together jumping waves and celebrating the success of the project. This worked up a healthy appetite, which was just as well, because dinner was a massive barbecue. There was just time for a quick night swim in the hotel pool before retiring for the night.

The final full day was spent traveling to the Braulio Carillo National Park to go to Rainforest World Aerial Tram. In groups of six they were taken on a tour through the rainforest canopy on a tram. Then it was into the serpentarium to learn all about and see a huge variety of Costa Rican snakes. From here, they returned to the hostel in San Jose where they had a final review session, a photo slideshow of the expedition, and finally a meal out at a traditional restaurant.

The Tayni Expedition was a huge success. The community were extremely thankful for all of the help they received, and the students learned a great deal about Costa Rican & indigenous culture, the environment, and of course themselves.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Welcome Fulham!

On Saturday morning, Field Base welcomed the North Fulham New Deal For Communities Expedition to Costa Rica. This group of nineteen students from Fulham Cross and Henry Compton Secondary Schools are here for 9 days, and will have the opportunity to experience elements of a community, environmental and adventure project.

The group arrived at San Jose airport late on Friday night and were taken to Hostal Toruma in downtown San Jose, by Raleigh International Volunteer Managers Ellie Cottam (also an interpreter), Lucy Collier, Emma Bell and Vanessa Miles (also a Medic). The next day they left bright and early and arrived in Turrialba, Raleigh’s Costa Rican base. The day was spent preparing to deploy on the project, which involved some health & hygiene and radio training, a presentation from Julian Olivier (Country Director) and copious amounts of delicious local cuisine. Due to the time difference, everyone was sound asleep by nine o’clock and up ready for breakfast at half past four in the morning! Just as well, as the bus taking them to their project left at six.

Right now the group are destined for the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. They will pass Limon en route (site of Christopher Columbus’ fist landing in the region), before heading south towards Cahuita and then inland through banana plantations to Finca Vesta. At this point they will be met by Gabriel and Cyriel from the Tayní Indigenous Reserve, who will guide the group into their project and provide horses to carry the tools and equipment required.

About Tayní
The students will be living in an indigenous reserve for five nights, giving them an incredibly unique opportunity to experience a culture and way of life completely different to their own. Tayní is populated by Cabecar indigenous people. There are currently about 6,000 indigenous people in the reserve, living in the communities of Gavilan, Coén, Alto Coén, Boca Coén, Calveri, Xicalar, Jobay, Severe, Tay Tara, Suny and Cumoles. The reserve is 16,216 hectares in size and covers the foothills of the Talamanca mountain range on the Atlantic side. The Pacuare, Chirripo and Tayní rivers all flow through the reserve. Nearly all of the inhabitants speak Cabecar and most speak Spanish. The majority of the inhabitants are subsistence farmers crowing maize, yucca, cacao and beans. Some of the population work in the nearby banana industry in the Valle de la Estrella owned by Dole. The culture of the area is still strong and many traditions persist. The majority of the population are Christians – Catholic and Evangelical.

The Project
The Group will be working in two locations in Tayní – Boca Coen and Isla Coen. At present there is nowhere for the primary school teachers to live in Boca Coen, so the teachers need to either walk for three hours or stay in a very cramped room. The community are building them a house so that they can have teachers permanently based there, guaranteeing the continued education of their children. We will be constructing the floor and painting the building. In Isla Coen, the group will be helping with the construction and painting of a new school, as the previous one is in the flood plain so is gradually being destroyed, and of course is dangerous.

Other Activities
While in the community, the group will also have the chance to experience the cultures and pastimes of the local population. They will go fishing with them, visit the local hot springs, visit and teach in the local school, learn Cabecar (indigenous language) and play football (footwear is optional!) There will be an evening spent camping in the jungle, where they will sleep in a basha hammock that they have constructed themselves, and cook using a Trangia cooker. Upon leaving the reserve they will visit Cahuita National Park where they will see a variety of sloth and monkeys, swim in the Caribbean, stay in a beach hotel, and finally, explore the rainforest in an aerial tram.

The participants on this expedition are: Yasmin Ahmed, Zainab Ahmed, Andrew Ajagungbade, Joseph Butler, Taher Darwesh, Sharna Defreitas, Omar Dixon, Kem Ekundayo, Said Hashimi, Mohammed Homadi, Ryan Keane, Alfie Kelly, Bana Mesgina, Vanessa Miles, Rachel O’Brien, Temitope Oluwadipe, Hussein Omar, Juan Vela Garzon, Jordon Waller and Eric Wong. Teachers Stephen Powell and Shashie Harrie, and Youth Worker Jason Allick are accompanying the group.

It’s going to be incredibly busy, eye-opening and fun nine days. Log on next Friday for an update and to view lots of photos from the expedition.

07J: Week One

Hello to you all from sunny Field Base in Turrialba. The alpha groups have been on their project sites for a week now, so below is an update of what each has been up to. All six teams are safe and happy. A week of bad weather has given them an interesting start to their projects, but the sun is out now and the groups will be feeling extremely proud of themselves for rising to some of the challenges they have been confronted with. The Field Base vehicles are currently out and about, so at the moment we only have photos from Alpha 3. However, photos from all of the project sites will follow shortly. For full details of who is in each group, see the blog before last.

Alpha 1
This group have had a very demanding yet incredibly enjoyable first week, having to contend with an unusual amount of rain on top of their already challenging trek. They have had to reroute a number of times in order to negotiate their way around rivers in spate, but are thoroughly enjoying such logistical obstacles. So far they have stayed in everything from tents to farms to a school, and have been attracting attention everywhere they go - it's not everyday a Nicaraguan farmer sees 13 'cheles' covered in mud with backpacks on passing through their land! As I write this, they are walking from Santa Maria to the base of Volcan Casita, which means they will be right back on schedule - an incredible achievement considering their route changes. We are currently liaising between A1 and Bravo 1 (Raleigh Land Rover) to coordinate a food resupply. The group are having a great time, and in the next week will be experiencing incredible views of the Maribios volcano chain.

Alpha 2
Alpha 2 have also had a very wet week - in fact, some areas of Guanacaste experienced flooding. Don't worry though, not the areas that we have been trekking through - A2 experienced no more than heavy rain for a couple of days! After a wet and muddy first few days, they reached their destination of La Paz and El Pilon, where they had the chance to rest for the day in the sun, visiting waterfalls and hot springs - the perfect way to rest their aching feet. The group stayed in Pueblo Nuevo last night and will stay in Finca Armenia tonight before meeting Bravo 2 (Raleigh Land Rover) in Santa Maria tomorrow for a food resupply. Spirits in the group are very high, and they are looking forward to climbing their first volcano in a few days.

Alpha 3
For a full report on Alpha 3, read the previous blog.

Alpha 4
Alpha 4 have made their accommodation of Santa Rosa Ranger Station very comfortable indeed. This is essential, as during the day they are up to their knees in mud! On the bright side, the recent rain in this area has made digging a lot easier! Incredible progress has been made, the group having far exceeded the rangers’ estimated distance of trench dug thus far. A4 are expecting their first visit from Field Base on Tuesday, so we will bring you all the latest news on this project then.

Alpha 5
It took Alpha 5 two days to get to Wisquili (Wee-ki-lee), but it was certainly worth it for the warm welcome given by the community who had been eagerly anticipating their arrival all day. The group are living with local families in twos and threes, experiencing their humble accommodation and delicious cuisine. The group got straight to work on their water project, impressing the locals with four straight days of hard trench digging. Perhaps Alpha 5 wanted to make such a good impression early on because they were planning to head off to Achuapa on Saturday to watch the final of the Rugby World Cup! The group left early in the morning and caught a live game of baseball, the number one sport in Nicaragua. They then somehow managed to find a place in this one horse town to watch the rugby - quite an achievement! Let's not mention the result though - the cheer from Doc Lock, our one and only South African currently residing atop Volcan Turrialba, could be heard in Northern Nicaragua!

Alpha 6
Alpha 6's project definitely hasn't gone to plan thus far, but it has led to a whole series of unexpected adventures! After spending a day and a half on the bus to the community of Naranja de Fatima, they were warmly received by their hosts. The group are living with the local families in twos and threes, experiencing their humble accommodation and delicious cuisine. They were due to start work on the project site the next day, but unfortunately the truck carrying all of the tools and materials got stuck in the river it had to cross en route - yet again, the excess rain of the last week giving the groups extra challenges, and Alpha 6 rose to it! With the aid of local expertise, they dammed the river and inch by inch dug / towed the vehicle out. Since then, they have made great progress on the foundations of the school building. The group planned to visit Esteli yesterday to watch the rugby, but unfortunately (or fortunately?!) the rivers were too high, so the local direct bus wasn't running. Today the group are having a day off and spending time relaxing with the locals. This morning, they attended a special mass to bless the new building, as well as the group members for all of their help. Alpha 6 have had an incredible first week, and have witnessed how the community pulls together to help each other and solve problems in time of need. Bravo 1 (Field Base vehicle) is due to visit them this week.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Tales from the Volcano…

Two members of field base team returned today after the first few days of expedition spent with Alpha 3 on Volcan Turrialba. The project team up there (Matthew, Liam, Louis, Saskia, Rogier, Ma Lee, Christopher Orr-Williams, Victor, Wayne and Sarah), although stunned by the cold and awesome scenery, are getting used to life and work at 3,300 meters.

The first day consisted of settling into the ranger station and tents that will be their home for the next three weeks, plus a breath-taking tour around one of the dormant craters. On day two the group started work on the enormous task of clearing the path that will take tourists from the existing road track right up to a viewing platform on the summit from where it’s possible to see over the three volcanic craters (two dormant, one active) and right out to the Caribbean coast. Initial group thoughts are that 2 sleeping bags per person and woolly hats were the right decision.

All the other Alpha groups have been in touch by radio and everyone is safe and well. Another field base team is leaving for visits tomorrow so we’ll get news and photos posted here as soon as they’re in.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

And the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

Well it’s been an exhilarating 5 days of non-stop jungle training. Thanks to Sgt Mac all 82 of us now know how to communicate by radio, navigate by 30 year old maps, cross rivers on foot, cook beanfeast on a trangier (jungle stove) and live in hammocks in the trees. And so I’d say we’re pretty well ready for anything.

Everyone is now in their new Alpha groups – by that we mean the teams they will be spending the next 3 weeks with on phase 1 project sites. So here’s where everyone is going as of 5.30am Sunday morning. Please see the diary entry from 29th Sept for a full description of each project…

Katharine, James, Hannah, Tom Forster, Richard, Stuart, Thomas, Kaya and Maikel will be leaving with Alpha 1 Project Managers Tom and Emily for the awesome 280k Maribios Volcanoes Trek, starting in the far north of Nicaragua and ending on the Pacific coast.

Joseph, Harry, Maggi, Laura, Christopher McPhee, Damian, Reinier, Darwin, Karla and Pablo will be in the next trekking group – heading off with Alpha 2 Project Managers Helena, Rohdri and Kerenza to the north of Costa Rica for the fantastic Guanacaste Trek.

Matthew, Liam, Louis, Saskia, Rogier, Ma Lee, Christopher Orr-Williams and Victor will be living at altitude with Alpha 3 Project Managers Wayne and Sarah – building a trail and viewing platform on top of the towering 3,300 metres Turrialba Volcano.

Carmelo, Edmond, Joshua, Kerry, Danielle Lukeman, George, Kate, Edwin and Simon are the jungle junkies heading with Alpha 4 Project Managers Ben and Beccy to the beautiful La Cangreja, Costa Rica’s newest National Park, to start the build of a water system and trail for the newly established ranger station.

Edward, Marina, Daniel, Peter, Rory, Tonia, Stephanie, Micheal and Ericka will be with Alpha 5 Project Managers Jorge, Kiran and Lena high in the hills above the remote Achuapa in Nicaragua. Alongside the community of Wisquili they will start work on a series of small projects to bring clean and safe drinking water into the village.

Gerson, Alison, Sylvius, Kit Sze, Danielle Martin, Sasha, Nicholas, William and Patrick will be setting off with Alpha 6 Project Managers Nicola, Hazel and Gavin to the beautiful, mountainous Miraflor reserve in Nicaragua, building a primary school/community centre in the community of La Naranja de Fatima.

Good luck to all our adventurers!!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

We have Participants!

Absolutely thrilled to announce that we now have a wonderful team of Participants here with us on field base in Costa Rica. Everyone is safe and sound, making friends and holding up well considering the long flights and 5.30am wake-up call at British School in San Jose where we spent the night. Tomorrow is the day when everyone finds out their groups and projects for phase 1. Check back tomorrow for the announcements...