Saturday, 12 April 2008

Expedition 08A Blog 17: End of expedition

The moment has finally come for me to write my last entry on the Expedition 08A blog in Costa Rica. Yesterday, we bid a sad farewell to all of our lovely participants as they either headed to the airpost in San Jose to fly home, or to set off on their onward travels.

The last day of expedition was as hectic as ever. Once all the expedition kit had been cleaned, repaired and returned, the participants were put back into their original Alpha groups for an intense reveiw session. Each person drew and presented a ´life shield´to visually represent their past, present and future intentions. It became clear how much some participants and staff alike have learned in their 3 months of spending time with Nicaraguan and Costa Rican communities, in National Parks, and trekking off the beaten track with only their Alpha group team mates to support them.

The expedition was then topped off with the third and final Field Base party - this time complete with a foam machine! Everyone was dressed to impress according to the ´bling pool party´ theme. Everyone had a great time incorportating a large number of unique dance moves and hilarity.

The eleven projects that took place throughout the 08A programme were a huge success, and from the staff team we’d like to say a huge thank you to all the participants for your hard work, energy and fun.

Firm friendships have been made over the course of the expedition and Raleigh´s alumni organisation is set to be extremely active with participants and staff from expedition 08A. Reunions are already planned.

We hope you had the time of your lives, and please don´t forget to stay in touch xxx

Expedition 08A Blog 16: Bravo 4 Road Trip and Opening Ceremony in Conte Burika

Bravo 4 (the Toyota Prado) dispatched from Field Base with Julian Olivier and Liz Killick on board. They paid a visit to the newly relocated Alpha 5 at El Bonito in Piedras Blancas National Park, and then Alpha 9 for the grand opening ceremony of the pre-school in the Conte Burika Indigenous Reserve.

Despite recent rains the ‘river road’ to Alpha 5 proved no obstacle for Bravo 4. Heading up-stream we arrived to find a very relaxed group, chilling in their new camp.

Having finished their 1.5km of trail clearing in nearby Riyito they had decamped to El Bonito to continue the work on the walls started in Phases 1 and 2. Their progress has been rapid and the bottom wall has been completed along with a groyne to slow the river, put in place by the Phase 2 team.
Under Stephen’s direction as Day Leader the group set to completing work on the top wall, with the new wire that had arrived. With just one day worth of work left for them to complete, they were looking forward to some football and sunbathing action before the return to Field Base.

After a walk to “the big tree” the next morning (a vast 800 year old tree hosting its own ecosystem in the secondary forest) it was time for Bravo 4 to set off again.

After a short drive down to the Panama border, we were on our way to Puerto Armuelles to meet our guide, Jose, who led us into the Conte Burika community of La Carona. Our rucksacks were laden with the travelling shop, post and two metal plaques for the inauguration ceremony the next day. The stifling heat made for a sweaty 6 hour hike into the remote village of Carona where we were welcomed by a very proud community and Alpha 9, ready to show us the completed pre-school.

The opening ceremony the next day involved the whole community, many who walked from miles around to be there.
The local women were resplendent in their traditional dress and had prepared a magnificent feast for the event.
The atmosphere was electric as the whole community and Raleigh volunteers took part in a Conte Burika ceremony of filing around a bench and hammering in a nail each. This represents the involvement of the entire community in the realisation of the project and the power of teamwork.
Then, after speeches by Julian and, Khanaki the community leader, Julian and Project Manager John Cecil-Wright had the honour of opening the ceremonial ribbon and declaring the pre-school open.

After 3 months of hard work put in by all the volunteers and the community members, it was immensely rewarding to see the finished school in pride of place in the village, painted and shining to perfection. We all hope that the building and what it stands for will enable the young children from Carona that we fell in love with will get the best start in life, and the dreams of the community to produce their own generation of educated professionals will be fulfilled.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Expedition 08A Blog 15: Bravo 3 Road Trip

Hello everyone – Liane here, Deputy Expedition Leader. I’ve just returned from a road trip with Ed ‘the money’ (our accountant), and I thought you might like to hear about where we went and what’s been happening in Alpha 6, Alpha 2 and Alpha 3, since we visited all of them on our travels.

We left on Thursday morning and headed to see Alpha 6 in La Cangreja National Park, via San Jose (where we stopped off to pay the designer of the magazine). Alpha 6 were in great form and welcomed us with a slap-up lunch, which had been prepared by Joseca and Lenin. Everyone was thrilled to receive mail from home, and they bought more chocolate and Coca Cola than you would care to imagine! Izzy and Harry are somewhat competitive about who is the brownest (we took the fifth when asked for our opinion!) and Loué has got the rest of the group hooked on Poker! Surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, we slept well in our tent while Alpha 6 caught up on their beauty sleep in either a basher bed or a hammock.

The plan for Friday morning was simple. We were to leave Alpha 6 at around 8am, and head south to meet up with Alpha 3 on their very last day of trekking. However, things never go to plan around here. The gate to the National Park was locked and all of the Rangers were at a meeting in nearby Puriscal. It took several phone calls and five hours to release us from captivity, and at 1pm we finally headed south to meet up with Alpha 3 who had made it to the beach (Playa Hermosa) and completed their trek – hurrah! Unfortunately it was a bit of a bumpy ride and the cake we’d carried all the way from Fieldbase for Jess’s birthday got completely squashed. Alpha 3 forgave us though, as we turned up laden with food for their celebratory meal that evening. We couldn’t stay long unfortunately, as we also had to go and meet Alpha 2 who had completed their trek a day early. Well done Alpha 2! They were hiding out in Playa el Rey – an absolutely stunning and completely deserted beach at the end of a track that we had to navigate our way to through a palm plantation.

We spent the night with Alpha 2, helping them to eat their celebratory barbeque and marvelling at Tamara’s diablo stick skills. Wiggling their blistered toes in the sand, Alpha 2 told us tales of their achievements, and tried to get us to confirm that the Dragon Trek is more difficult than Corcovado (Alpha 1) and Macho (Alpha 3). Why are these participants so competitive?! The next morning, we spent a couple of hours on the beach (it’s a hard life) and then left Alpha 2 topping up their tans while we sped north on the coast road to rejoin Alpha 3 for a night. The girls were all bikini clad when we arrived, other than poor Charlotte who has been finding the heat somewhat intense. Marieke and Fred were chattering ten to the dozen as usual, and Gavin and Tom dished up a delightful dinner.

Alas, we had to return to Fieldbase yesterday and were reunited with Bravo 4. Julian, our trusty Country Director, had been visiting Alpha 5 in Piedras Blancas National Park and he was the guest of honour at the opening of the school we’ve built down in Conte Burika. He was accompanied by Liz from the Logistics team who will post an entry on here later. As we draw towards the end of the expedition, I’d just like to tell you that this has been THE most awesome experience. No doubt Natalie will post a final blog on her return (she’s been trekking with Alpha 2 this phase) but until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading!