Friday, 31 October 2008

Back to Civilisation ..... briefly!

On Sunday our three Alpha groups will return from each of their locations to once again fill up field base. Arriving Sunday afternoon, they will have a chance to go into Turrialba and use phone and internet services on Monday. Speaking from personal experience it is wonderful to receive emails and letters while on expedition, particularly when you come in from phase, so just in case you haven't already please pop something in their inboxes.

Our eating and activity area and this changeover the location for our halloween party on Monday night as well as stage for the much anticipated skits on Sunday night. Below the much loved tents equipped with wooden pallet floors, just the thing for our weary adventurers.

Sandra and Rosie, our ever smiling cooks who come each changeover to give everyone a break from tuna and crackers. This changeover's menu includes, Rice, Chicken and Beans Carribean style, Burritos and a huge BBQ which should keep everyone happy.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Our friendly neighbours

Just in case you thought the stories of snakes and spiders and other creepy crawlies are exagerated here are a couple of the characters that Jamie from Alpha 2 has captured on his travels so far. Rest assured that boot belongs to a local farmer and not Jamie!

Alpha 2 - Food Drop Number 3

The 3rd food drop coincided with Cam's birthday on the 27th October and so the team were treated to some cornflake cakes, home made and delivered by Rachel. Roly's birthday was just 2 days before while Mick's birthday is on the 2nd November. Happy Birthday to you all!!!

Jen waves to the Spencer family- she misses you!
Highlights as reported by the team
  • Javelin competition with their sticks as fashioned by Stu
  • Meeting a mountain man who claimed that God had told him to give up smoking and move to the mountains
  • Swimming in the Pejibaye river on the way to Taus
  • Cam and Roly's birthday with a homemade cake for Roly with Jen's delicious chocolate sauce

Message from Mags

"Having a great birthday in Roca Quemada see you all soon when I get back home. Miss you all and love you all." Mags

Photos from "The Crab"

The much anticipated photos and news of Alpha 3 in La Cangreja have come through and I think you will agree they were worth the wait! Alpha 3 are having a brilliant time, and the jungle camp they have created they describe as their own oasis in the jungle. The group has an amazing atmosphere and it is clear that some very firm friendships have been established. We're incredibly proud of all they have achieved, and we love that they have always retained their great sense of humor and fun.

The group have made huge efforts to bring the mod cons to the camp which now comes equipped with tables and chairs, a fully furnished kitchen and their very own poker table, nevertheless there is no denying that this is a jungle camp - check out the mud! Still those views are pretty amazing, imagine waking up to that each morning!

Despite the closeness of the group, we have heard of a certain division between the "posers" and the "reds". Here Steve, with his tan, represents the posers and Ross with his pinkness represents the reds, bless.

They've captured our hearts and I am sure they will capture yours - they have promised me that they will send through messages for the blog on radio comms tonight, so keep reading!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Radio Raleigh

Every Sunday at 4pm we at field base host our very own radio programme, the infamous Radio Raleigh. This is a chance for us would be DJs to have a go at entertaining our captured audience of VMs and Venturers desperate for news from the outside world. Sports updates, breaking headlines and of course Hollywood gossip are all popular parts of the programme as are messages from the Blog!. Radio Raleigh is also a chance for the Alpha groups to swap stories on their progress to date and fill us and each other in with what they have been up to.

Alpha 1 is making good progress on the school and after putting in the foundations, they are currently laying the floor and will soon begin erecting the frame for the walls. They were most proud of their new long drop and claim “it is the long drop to beat all long drops” - quite the claim, I shall post photos when they come in so you can decide for yourself.

Mags is now looking forward to celebrating what must surely be a pretty unique birthday tomorrow - while Rosie has been impressing us all with her Spanish, she completed a radio sitrep in Spanish yesterday!

Happy Birthday Mags!!!

Alpha 2 – radioed in from the top of a hill where they were wild camping close to some electricity pylons and not much else. Today they had some jungle to tackle – there is a lot of up! Before coasting down to the beautiful town of Copey. Here they will stay in a community centre before heading across to Providencia, then into the jungle for one last bit of up before the descend into what I believe to be one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. Spirits are high at Alpha 2 as the Pacific Coast, their final destination is now within range!

Alpha 3 reports that they are making slow but steady progress on their path project. Path making as the group is finding is no easy task, but all are fast becoming experts on machete use. The weather has been much kinder and the group even reported some sun sightings in recent days. Alpha 3 is currently being visited by Ross and Rachel and so I will post more news and photos as soon as they return.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Messages from Roca Quemada

The messages you have been sending are being sent out via radio, satelite phone or in person when groups are visited. The following messages have come back to us!

SCOTT - Hi guys, having an awesome time building the school. Letters are in the post, will call in 2 weeks - love Scott

ROSIE - Missing and love all my family and friends and can't wait to see them. I miss you so much, Love Rosie xx

MAGS - Misses and loves family and partner

Bravo 1 Road Trip, Friday October 17 2008

The first road trip of phase 1 saw Ross, Chris and I going to visit Alpha 1 at Roca Quemada. Both Chris and I are novice trekkers so were a little apprehensive as we knew it had taken experienced trekkers 5 hours to walk in on the planning visit. Turns out it was even tougher than we thought but we managed to keep up with Ross’s pace despite the mud that came up to our shins and then a lovely downpour to make it a little harder. We first had to climb from 700m to 1300m, then descend back to 500m to reach Roca Quemada and we soon decided that downhill was just as hard as uphill. Chris managed to trip over a low level fence, I did a face plant into the mud and Ross miraculously seemed to stay pretty much upright the whole time.

We reached Roca Quemada in 3 hours and 28 minutes very dirty, smelly and wet but the group welcomed us with hugs and smiles. No time for rest though as we set about helping them to build their jungle camp that afternoon.

The next day the whole team were up bright and early with 2 objectives. The first objective was to move 50 logs, the 4ft ones weighing 20 kilos and the 5ft weighing 30, from a kilometre away to where the classroom was being built. These logs were to form the foundations of the school and it was going to be a tough job. Although only a short distance away it involved crossing a stream and negociating a very steep hill for the final bit of the walk.

The group decided it was best to move the logs one section at a time and worked amazingly well together to get the job done. Their pride was only slightly dented when a local who was walking past offered to help and picked up 2 of the shorts logs on one shoulder and walked the entire distance without breaking a sweat.

Their pride suffered a further dent when a young boy of no more than 10 came to help, picked up one of the short logs and walked off looking like he could skip with it! Despite this, the team were delighted that they had completed what was one of the hardest tasks of the project and celebrated with a wash in the nearest stream.

Meanwhile jungle camp had been fully constructed and was ready for Alpha 1 to move into. The night’s activities consisted of cooking dinner, writing letters home, playing cards and then a very early night as everyone was exhausted.

The next morning Ross, Chris and I prepared ourselves for the walk out by lining our stomachs with porridge. We were sad to leave and the group were sad to see us go (well so they said!). We also felt a little bit envious of the exciting 2 weeks they had ahead of them. The walk out was actually tougher than the way in as the first half is non stop climbing steep ridges for over 2 hours.

The sense of relief when we reached the top is something I will always remember and although the sun had come out making it very hot we still managed to walk out in 4 hours and 9 minutes including 45 minutes of rest time.
Triumphantly we returned to field base with all our tales and photographs and just in time for lunch.

Nik, Admin.

Where in the world are Alpha 2

After 2 days in the jungle crossing through Barbilla National park, Alpha 2 have emerged on the other side, still in one piece and in good form. Their stay in the Valle Escondido Indigenous Reserve was a highlight for everyone with the weather clearing to allow for some serious star gazing.

In the reserve the group stayed in the house of one of the leaders, these simple wooden structures seem like heaven after a day of mud, rivers, hills and spiders! (The tarantula was massive! ) It is also provided an insight into the lives of the Cabecar people who speak their own language, and have a very different way of living. They are a largely self sufficient community who venture into town perhaps once every 3 weeks to stock up on some basic necessities. It was a unique experience for members of Alpha 2, an experience which they are unlikely to forget.

Last night Chris and Rachel from field base met Alpha 2 for their second food drop. The group had found a local community centre in the small town of Cruzada to stay. Although equipped with tents and camping equipment, Alpha 2 has relied on the charm of their members, in particular local venturer Andre, and the hospitality of the Costa Rican people and have managed to so far stay in buildings of some description. It's a brilliant way to travel and really adds to the adventure.

The group enjoys some luxuries brought by field base, with their evening meal of pasta.

Rhys showing off his culinary skills - Dave and Andre with mess tins ready!

Jamie gets to know some locals who are always fascinated to know what we are doing.

Roly and Emily - really they do want to be there!

Individual Updates

Jen – is aching but is showing real determination and strength and has yet to be beaten by a hill or a spider
Vincent – is on top form and keeps everyone entertained with his Dutch humour
Dave – is loving the hills!! Has been a great day leader, but has grown somewhat attached to the smell of his shirt and is determined to complete the trek without washing away the smell!
Emily – has found time to not only trek but write masses of letters – loved ones you will hear from her soon, and don’t worry Mum the bag did make it but went inside the bus.
Andre – our local hero, has been brilliant at negotiating with local people and has brought a great Latin flavour to the group
Roly – is looking forward to his birthday, and is still the proud owner of floppy hair!
Cam – Always in good spirits, and taking everything in her stride – sends her love to Tim
Georgie – a real trooper, has yet to complain, incredibly positive and always smiling
Stu – in great form, sends his love to his girls and his island
Rhys – has loved receiving all your messages and is ready to go
Mick – has recovered from blisters and has rejoined the group with lots of energy after several huge hamburgers
Jamie – has new energy and is ready to roll, is loving playing football and chatting to the local children

Future Plans
Today the group head up to a small community called Taus, here they will stay in a community centre which serves the 5 families which still live there, they will then head up and across some pristine cloud forest, before some serious up, some more jungle, wild camping and stunning views.
We'll update you again soon! Keep the messages flowing, it really means a lot to these guys!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Alpha 3 - La Cangreja - "The Crab"

La Cangreja - Home for Alpha 3

For the past week Alpha 3 has been settling into their jungle home set in the midst of La Cangreja National Park on the eastern side of Costa Rica. La Cangreja (The Crab) is one of Costa Rica's newest parks, prtoecting tropical forests in the Puriscal Region, Talamanca Mountain Range. With an annual rainfall of more than 160 inches (Alpha 3 can testify to this!), varied topography and Tropical Humid Forest and Pre-Montane Humid Forest La Cangreja has an abundance of both flaura and fauna. The area is of particular interest to biologist from throughout the world who have already identified a number of new species from the area.

This beautiful spot is where Alpha 3 is currently calling home, and after a week of wash outs and re-builds their jungle camp has been built and work is underway on the wheel chair path, only the second of it's kind in Costa Rica. Raleigh works in partnership with the national park service in Costa Rica, MINAE, which relies heavily on volunteers to protect the national parks which make up around 21% of Costa Rica's land mass - Costa Rica is one of the world leaders in terms of protecting its natural environment and the work Raleigh does is helping to protect these parks. By improving the infrastructure, such as paths, Raleigh is helping to increase visitor numbers and income levels necessary to ensure the work of MINAE continues.

Below is Cerro La Cangreja, or the Crab, from which the park gets its name - for hopefully obvious reasons!

It's not all work though, and Alpha 3 have also had plenty of opportunity to swim in the waterfalls, play football (led of course by Soccer Steve) and explore their beautiful surroundings. Always full of banter and fun, Alpha 3 are an incredibly tight knit group and we at field base love them almost as much as you!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Alpha 2 - Jungle bound

Today Alpha 2 heads up to Barbilla National Park where they will stay in the beautiful Barbilla Biological Station. The station attracts scientists, students, volunteers and visitors from around the world who carry out studies as well as help the rangers in their quest to protect the surrounding tropical rainforests.

The Barbilla National Park is part of the Talamanca - La Amistad Biosphere Reserve Costa Rica declared by UNESCO in 1982. It protects forests of the Caribbean slope of the Talamanca Mountain Range and tomorrow Alpha 2 will begin the first of their jungle phases when they cross some of the parks 29500 acres. The area is very wet and has low hills and a large number of rivers which flow into the Pacuare River, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the group to practice their river crossing skills. There will also be mud like they have never experienced, and hopefully some encounters with the local wildlife.

Alpha 2 will spend one night in the jungle before emerging on Monday to spend a night at the Valle Escondido Indigenous Reserve. The reserve is home to people from the Cabecar group, one of several Indigenous tribes who together make up 1% of Costa Rica’s population.
We will let you know how they get on!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Deployment Day

Deployment day dawned on Wednesday and venturers and volunteer managers were met by a somewhat dreary morning here in Costa Rica, where rain levels have been higher than normal thanks to a low pressure system which has covered the country. Spirits were not dampened however as this energetic crew packed up their kit and boarded buses bound for different corners of the country.

Alpha 1 - Roca Quemada

Chris enjoys an early breakfast

Scott perhaps wisely saves his for later

Alpha 1 heading off to Roca Quemada - this was the beginning of thier journey which was to take an epic 13 hours to complete, tired and weary all have now arrived safe and sound and are busily setting up their jungle camp before they begin work on the school.

Alpha 2 - Coast -to- Coast

Mixed emotions from the trekers - Jen, Vincent and Rhys

Emily - dressed for the occassion

Alpha 2 had their first taste of what it is like to pack up all your belongings on a daily basis. Despite being the last group to leave they arrived in good time at their destination point, the beach at Moin on the Carribean Coast. Wasting no time the team headed straight up the beach, and were accompanied by some friendly local policemen on quad bikes who brought them bananas and coconuts and kindly kept an eye on their backpacks as Alpha 2 took a quick dip in the sea. They spent their first night in a local garage before heading off (in record time) towards Barbilla National Park. They spent their second night in a community centre, but will tonight most likely have their first taste of wild camping. Let's hope this rain eases!!

Yes Em your bag was suppose to go up there

Alpha 3 - La Cangreja

Alpha 3 had an adventure just getting to La Cangreja. Heavy rains which led to landslides blocked the entry road and meant an 8km walk in to the rangers station. The rains have not let up but nor have the spirits of this group. Having spent the first night at the rangers stations, they have now begun to build their jungle home, and will begin work on the wheel chair paths tomorrow.