Monday, 21 January 2008

Expedition 8A Blog 03: Project Allocations

Happy Tuesday from Costa Rica Field Base!

Here in Turrialba we have now just about recovered from the challenges of trekking and jungle camp over the weekend. We’re a fine and fit looking bunch I know, but walking over rough terrain carrying 20 kilos plus of group kit isn’t easy!

On the plus side, there’s now nothing we don’t know about navigation and getting unlost once lost in the jungle. Or machete wielding, setting up crystal clear radio communications in the field, setting camp, building bashers, hammocks and A-frames and crossing rivers safely without doggy paddle.

Project Managers have also now been allocated their project team member/s and project site. Do you want to know who's going where? Well, here goes:

Alpha One: The Corcovado Trek
Project Managers: Bobby Dawson and Nick Dillon

This trek starts in the stunning montane La Amistad National Park, the largest National Park in Costa Rica and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It then passes through beautiful mountain scenery, towering cloud forest, waterfalls and hot springs. The group will then cross the Coto Brus valley to the Fila Costena – a chain of mountains that run parallel to the sea. Once they are out of the mountains the group will finish the trek by crossing the famous Corcovado National Park that straddles the Osa Peninsula, walking through the best preserved tropical rainforest in Central America. The group will have a chance to see monkeys and Tapirs before they walk alongside the Pacific Ocean for three days to meet the bus home.

Alpha Two: The Dragon Trek
Project Mangers: Ed Rowberry and Kate Chapman

Starting at sea-level, this group of volunteers will walk through the Carara National Park for two days before climbing up to the 2,500 metre peak of Cerro Dragon after which the trek is named. After this challenging start the group will be able to enjoy walking along the ridges of this agricultural region with stunning views up to the Cordillera Talamanca and down to the Pacific Ocean. From this ridge the young people will descend into the Los Santos region, famous for its populations of Resplendent Quetzals and its stunning oak cloud forests down through the Pacific foothills to the ocean. After walking over 250 kilometers and climbing countless peaks the group will enjoy a few days at the end to bathe their feet and to enjoy the beauties of the beach at Playa El Rey.

Alpha Three: The Rio Macho Trek
Project Managers: James Gaynor and Tabitha Codd

This trek will start at Raleigh International’s fieldbase in Turrialba and proceed through the Rio Macho Forestry Reserve for the first week passing through Tapanti National Park. After climbing up to nearly 3,000 metres the group will then follow the ridges of the Fila de Bustamante towards Cerro Dragon. From here the group will aim for Cerro Turrubares before heading down to the sea at Playa Hermosa where the groups will spend a couple of relaxing days at this beautiful beach, famous for its nesting turtles.

Alpha Four: Barra Honda
Project Mangers: Paul Spiby and Bevin Aston

This is the first time that we have sent a group to work in this fascinating National Park on the Nicoya Peninsula, largely made up of dry tropical forest. The National Park is a semi-circle of hills that were once a coral reef. These limestone hills are now riddled with numerous caves, unique to Costa Rica, and home to many fascinating species including some rare bats. This year Costa Rica’s National Park day is to be celebrated in this area and the park authorities are aiming to have completed the new administration building with the help of this Raleigh International group. The group will be camping in the forest by the administration building and by day working on building the fire-response outpost, a warehouse and a new kitchen as well as repairing the trail that loops around the buildings.

Alpha 5: Piedras Blancas
Project Managers: Duncan Laurie-Pile and Alice Thompson

Piedras Blancas is a relatively new National Park in the south of Costa Rica where important primary forests on the north coast of Golfo Dulce act as vital biological corridors between Corcovado National Park and the mountains. Raleigh International will be working in partnership with the Costa Rican National Parks authority to protect the ranger station at El Bonito from destruction by the river. Last year heavy rains caused the river to change course which resulted in the ranger station being put at risk from flooding. The group will build protective walls preventing increased erosion and to redirect the river back to its original course. This area is important for the development of tourism, to prevent poaching and also for scientists who are studying the biodiversity that the park has to offer. The volunteers will have the opportunity to live in the forest and to learn about conservation in this beautiful National Park.

Alpha 6: La Cangreja
Project Managers: Tim Jaques and Sian Thomas

La Cangreja is 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 and 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 by exploring the forest. At present the government is developing the facilities in the park and during the expedition Raleigh venturers will build a bridge over the Rio Negro river to extend the trail network within the park. This project is a unique opportunity to live right in the middle of the jungle!

Alpha 7: Achuapa, Los Loros, Nicaragua
Project Managers: Suzanne Rogers and Hayley Stewart

High in the hills above Achuapa, in one of the poorest most remote areas of Nicaragua, Raleigh will be working on a series of small projects to bring clean and safe drinking water to 80 families in the community of Los Loros. At present the local people get their water from the river which often dries up in summer or comes from polluted water sources. This project is a multi-stakeholder 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. The participants will be living directly with families in the village and will help out with their day to day tasks.

Alpha 8: Miraflor Pre-schools project, Nicaragua
Project Managers: Caroline Millar and Victoria Millar (no relation!)

The Miraflor reserve is 206sqkm 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 participants will be building a pre-school in the community of Las Lagunetas where currently there are no facilities for very young children to learn. The community currently perseveres with basic lessons in people’s houses. In the third phase the group will work in the community of El Jilguero on a gravity fed water project to bring fresh drinking water to twenty families. The Raleigh volunteers will live with local families and experience the lives of local people whilst enjoying the beauty of the local natural environment.

Alpha 9: Conte Burika
Project Managers: Lexi Nicol and Juan Diego Araya (Lorian)

Situated on the remote Burika peninsula, this project will be building a school at Carona, in the Conte Burika Indigenous Reserve. The Ngobe (or Guaymi) Indigenous people who live there currently are subsistence farmers who maintain the cultural traditions of their ancestors. This group will be constructing a 10 metre building from wood which will provide a pre-school for the youngest members of the community. Currently there is no preschool in the indigenous reserve and so the community are 100% behind this project. The community is extremely remote – to get there you have to trek 8 hours along a beach and then up into the hills behind. This project has been identified by the local population to make a lasting difference to the Conte Burika reserve.

That’s about it for now. All groups are heading out to recce their project sites as we speak, ready to report back to Field Base at the weekend.

Wish them luck!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Expedition 8A Blog 02: Project Management staff arrive at Field Base in Turrialba

Hello again from sunny Costa Rica! (Thought I would get that in as I understand it’s wet, windy and flood prone in the UK at the moment. Sorry to hear about that).

Our expedition staff ranks at Field Base have now swelled with the arrival of 18 project managers and a photographer! In addition to the advance staff party we now have:

Annabelle Taylor
Nicholas Dillon
Juan Diego Araya
Paul Spiby
Victoria Millar
Alice Thompson
Kate Chapman
Timothy Jaques
Caroline Millar
Sian Thomas
Hayley Stewart
Bevin Aston
Roberta Dawson
Tabitha Codd
Edward Rowberry
Suzanne Rogers
Duncan Laurie-Pile
Alexander Baer

With all the new blood, sleepy Field Base has morphed into a hive of activity. We’ve spent the last 2 days getting stuck into our expedition training, storming, forming and performing as a well oiled team. We’ve had our swimming tests and gone through health and safety protocol. We’ve learned correct voice procedure and how to set up field radios during 5 hours of radio communications theory and practice.

We spent yesterday running through risk assessment procedure and getting to grips with the comprehensive expedition incident planning and preparation. We've worked on honing our health, hygiene and first aid skills with lots of scenarios and practical sessions. I assure you that there have been plenty of comedy moments along the way, thanks to theatrical demonstrations of rabid trekkers, misuse of tools and very bad mountain leaders.

We’ve got a hike into jungle camp to come today. Out in the wilds we’ll be cementing our map reading, camp craft skills and plugging ourselves completely into the circle of life, maybe hugging some trees and probably getting up close and personal with some more resident creepy crawlies.

And then we’ll have the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the Big Reveal of the project allocations on Sunday. This expedition will be focusing on nine project sites around Costa Rica and Nicaragua, ranging from community projects to bring clean and safe drinking water to remote communities, environmental projects to construct and protect National Park ranger stations and build trails and bridges, and adventure treks through World Heritage sites, National Parks, high mountain peaks and Pacific beaches. I’ll update you on the projects and their allocated project managers early next week. Once we know, you’ll know!

Bye for now...

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Expedition 8A blog 01: Advance Field Base staff move in

Greetings from Turrialba, Costa Rica!

The Field Base staff advance party for Expedition 08A Costa Rica and Nicaragua have now swung into action, with rather large cheesy smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts. So far we’re starring:

Julian Olivier as Country Director

Ross Mckenzie as Country Programme Manager

Ale Leon as Host Country Participant Coordinator

Don Martin as the Legend of Raleigh Field Base

Liane Preston as Deputy Expedition Leader

Catherine Simmons on Logistics

Liz Killick on even more Logistics

Lexi Nicol as the Good Doctor

Ed Dew as Finance Type in charge of the abacus

Natalie Gee as the Communications Officer

It's now day 5 for us in Turrialba, Costa Rica.

If you could see through my eyes for a few minutes you’d see that I'm typing out on the sunny Field Base terrace. It would be very peaceful around here apart from the occasional cow bell, moo, and rather a lot of bird song, coming not least the rather dashing Montezuma Oropéndula. This bird sounds not dissimilar to a turkey gobbling. To be honest it’s a bit much this close to Christmas, even when shaking its foxy yellow tail feather.

Field Base is nestled in a valley with a 360˚ degree panorama of green, green hills. Volcano Turrialba is smoking a little in the distance. There is a flock of turkey and black headed vultures riding the thermals on the horizon. There’s a mug of Costa Rica's finest at my elbow. In short, it’s not a bad spot.

Over the last few days the team have been busy getting ourselves acquainted with the local area, learning about the amazing projects that we’ll soon be getting stuck into, preparing the plan for staff and participant induction weeks, doing driver training and the mammoth task of cleaning and checking equipment and supplies. A lot of energy is also being focussed on the 2 mice we believe we have at large. Where there are two mice, there are more in the post.

We’re also bating our breath for the rest of the expedition staff to arrive next week, and our participants to fill the place on the 1st February. I hope all your final preparations are going well and you’re all as excited as we are! And that you don’t mind mice.

While you’re waiting for your adventures to begin, keep logging in here regularly and make sure you email the blog address to all your nearest and dearest. I’ll be updating it regularly. Next I’ll post a short summary of the nine amazing projects that we’ll be kicking off soon – the reason we’re all here.

Bye from all of us for now…