Saturday, 29 September 2007

Buenos dias all. Well it’s been a momentous first 5 days for the project staff out here in Costa Rica. Thursday began with a 4 hour trek out of field base with an incredible 20 kilos of backpack each (some strange logic determines that this gets easier as time goes by – a true fact). The scenery, as ever, was stunning and by lunch time we had all successfully arrived at destination jungle camp which was to be our home for the night. A few moments captured on camera below. We returned the next day, slightly filthy, but happy in the knowledge that we all know how to live in trees, cross rivers, set up a HF radio, understand the dark art of grid references and wield a machete, should the need arise.

On our return, the moment we had all been waiting for: phase 1 project allocations. And here they are…

Kieran, Lena and Jorge will be setting off to the hills above Achuapa, one of the poorest, most remote areas of Nicaragua. Here they’ll be working with the participants on a series of small projects to bring clean and safe drinking water to 30 families in the community of La Calera. At present the local people get their water from the river which often dries up in summer or comes from polluted water sources. The project will be run in partnership with the local community, the Cooperativa Juan Francisco Paz Silva, Nottingdale International and Raleigh. The group will be working with the local population to dam small streams, build tanks to collect the water from where it can run through pipes to all the local houses. The benefits of clean water will be felt by many generations to come.

Gavin, Hazel and Nicola will be making their way to the Miraflor reserve in Nicaragua – a 206sqkm area of beautiful mountainous terrain with various different ecosystems including tropical savannah, dry tropical forest and mountain cloud forest. Within the reserve there are a number of communities living through subsistence farming and gaining income from coffee growing, cattle farming and some small tourism initiatives. However the people have few resources and lack access to basic services such as health and education. On this project the group will be building a primary school/community centre in the community of La Naranja de Fatima where currently there are no facilities for very young children to learn and the community perseveres with basic lessons in people’s houses. In the final phase the group will be repair a bridge which has been damaged in local floods – ensuring the 40 children of the community of La Pita can attend school.

Beccy and Ben will be in La Cangreja – Costa Rica’s newest National Park which owes its name to the striking 1,305 metre peak Cerro Cangreja. The park has a mixture of Tropical Humid forest and Pre-Montane forest with a number of species of plant found nowhere else in the world which makes the area important for research purposes and for conservation. The park is also blessed with amazing waterfalls only to be found through exploring the forest. At present the government is developing the facilities in the park and during the expedition Raleigh groups will live right in the middle of the jungle, building a water system for the newly established ranger station and extending the trail network within the park.

Sarah and Wayne will be closer to home – living at 3,300 metres on top of the Turrialba Volcano, with stunning views over the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica right out to the sea many miles away. The volcano is currently active although without larva, producing a bit of gas and smoke. Around the volcano there is a beautiful cloud-forest, habitat to a great variety of montane species. Here, the group will be building a wooden viewing platform for tourists to be able to take in the stunning beauty of the views from the top of the volcano. They will live in this unusual and fascinating location, working alongside park rangers and understanding the challenges that they face in their work.

Helena, Rhodri and Kerenza will be leading the Guanacaste Trek – with a setting that covers a huge variety of different ecosystems from cloud forest above 3000 metres down to one of the last remaining stands of primary dry tropical forest left in the Americas. The trek will start by circumnavigating Volcan Tenorio via the Caribbean slopes visiting Turquoise waterfalls and moist rainforest. After passing by Volcan Miravalles the group will head to Rincon de la Vieja national park to climb one of the volcanoes and to witness steaming mud pots, geysers, and hot sulphur springs. After several days of walking through the forest they will arrive at the foot of Cerro Cacao in Guanacaste National park for a steady climb up the volcano. From here it will be a descent down into the dry tropical forests of Santa Rosa National Park where scientists have identified over 3,000 plant species, some 300 bird species, and 5,000 insects. The trek will finish at Playa Junquillal to relax by the beautiful calm waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Tom and Emily will be taking up the enormous challenge of the Maribios Volcanoes Trek in the far north of Nicaragua, close to the border with Honduras. The group will walk from the Miraflor national park in the uplands enjoying the lush cloud forest, with a chance of seeing the Resplendent Quetzal, then following the mountains down to the Achuapa area. From here they will eventually reach the string of volcanoes called ‘Los Maribios’ which are named after an ancient tribe who lived in the area. The trek continues to follow the line of volcanoes closely up to the Cosiguina Peninsula for one final ascent. Volcano Cosiguina is the site of the largest volcanic eruption in the history of Americas and from the summit spectacular views can be seen across the Gulf of Fonseca to Honduras and El Salvador. The last day will be spent on the beach and swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

And finally…

Lucy, Emma, Ellie and Vanessa will be in the Tayni Indigenous Reserve in Costa Rica – where Raleigh and North Fulham New Deal for Communities have teamed up to create a one-off, 10 day expedition to Costa Rica for ex-pupils of Henry Compton and Fulham Cross Schools. This will give the participants an incredible insight into the people and culture of this stunning Central American country, as part of an extremely challenging and rewarding project. In 2005, Raleigh built the first secondary school in the Indigenous Reserve of Tayní in the community of Boca Coen. For this project, we will be returning to Boca Coen and another community Isla Coen to paint two primary schools and finish some of the building work for opening in early 2008. The Reserve is located in the Valle de la Estrella, in the foothills of the Matama mountain range. It consists of 16,000 hectares of land and approximately 6,000 inhabitants who are 100% Cabécares. The workwill allow a new generation a chance of an education which is vital to their futures. The participants will be living and working in the community, eating local food and having the opportunity to practice the language. In addition, the students will experience trekking with a night in hammocks in a jungle camp.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Project managers and medics arrive in force...

A quick message to all family and freinds of the staff team out here in Costa Rica. Everyone arrived on field base safe and well this morning after a 6am start from the British School in San Jose where we spent a pleasant night in the gym! The weather is beautiful, beds are all allocated and training has begun (lesson 1: how to wash up). Everyone is delighted about the scheduled trip to the swimming pool this afternoon. Keep you posted...

Monday, 24 September 2007

Field base staff are let out

Buenas dias, welcome to the latest up date from Costa Rica field base!

Happily, those of us in the advance staff group finally escaped for the afternoon on Friday (it's no holiday here you know). We visited the largest and most important archaeological site in the country: 'Monumento Nacional Arqueologico Guayabo' which is an excavated city, occupied from around 1000 BC and mysteriously abandoned in AD800 – were Raleigh venturers around in those days?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The autumn expedition gets going...

Welcome to Raleigh in Costa Rica & Nicaragua 07J! This is day 4 for the shiny team of advance field based staff. It’s a beautiful, hot afternoon here in Turrialba (it's certainly not autumn as we know it) and we’re all getting ready to make this one super-amazing, unforgettable expedition.

So far we have Julian (country director), Ellie, Amanda & Luke (Logistics team) Emma (the banker), Kieran (the doctor), Lucy (team coach), Mac (deputy expedition leader) and myself, Jane (the communications person). We also have 2 pigs (as yet un-named), a field full of super-cows, and I strongly suspect there are monkeys hiding in the trees but I ain’t seen them right?

In the last couple of days we’ve been busy checking out the local area, learning more about the project sites, preparing the plan for induction weeks, doing driver training and checking equipment and supplies. We’re hugely excited about the arrival of the full team of project staff next Monday, followed by our participants who we’ll be meeting at San Jose airport on 8th October. I hope the final preparations are going well for you all.

Check back regularly, I’ll be posting a short summary of the six fantastic projects that we’ll be doing on expedition soon. A few first attempts at photography below...

Hasta la vista