Saturday, 31 January 2009

And so it begins

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to do a quick blog to let everyone at home know that we nearly have our full team here at Fieldbase this morning, with just six more Venturers being picked up at the airport later on today, this evening we will finally have everyone here!

We had a beautiful journey from San Jose this morning, the sun was shining and the clouds were low, making the mountians look amazing as we drove into Turrialba. After a hearty breakfast of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans - yum!) the Venturers are now currently outside getting to know everyone, trying to remember 130 new names, and settling into their Hotel groups - the large army tents that will be their homes for the next four days before they deploy for phase one...

In a minute we're all headed to the university for swim tests, admin and photos, and then this evening Julian, our Country Director, and the Project Managers will be giving the project presentations and everyone will find out about all the exciting projects we have running in phase one.

We'll get some photos up of everyone as soon as we can once we're back from the university.
For those of you new to the blog - Bienvenido! We hope you enjoy reading about all the exciting things your friends and family will be getting up to over the next ten weeks! And big thanks to everyone who has left us messages so far - it's so lovely to hear from people at home and everyone gets really excited every time we get a new one!

Friday, 30 January 2009

The final countdown

I can't quite believe how quickly the past few weeks have flown by and that in just a few hours time, the first of our Venturers will be arriving at Fieldbase!

Through all the prep and training we've crammed in, we've built up a fantastic staff team, and I think we're just about feeling ready to go for what is shaping up to be an amazing expedition!

Here we all are in our staff team photo we took this morning...

The sun finally made a proper appearance in Turrialba this morning and there's a real buzz about here today - we are all so excited that by tomorrow morning the entire 09A expedition team will be here!

This morning we’ve all been cleaning and tidying since breakfast to make sure everything is ready. Here are James, Stu and Spilla putting the final tent up...

And Wendy and Lisa cleaning up the terrace...

Our 14 Venturers from Costa Rica and Nicaragua will be arriving and getting settled in this afternoon and some of the Project Managers will be holding a Ready Steady Cook competition later on tonight

Meanwhile, Laura, Jackie, Szeman, Ross and myself are all off to the airport with our Raleigh clipboards to meet the remaining 78 Venturers and our third medic, Anna-Louise. So for any of the venturers who happen to be on here before we meet you at the airport, look out for something along the lines of…

We’ll all be staying at the British School in San Jose tonight before heading back to Fieldbase first thing tomorrow, for a big breakfast specially prepared by our cooks Sandra and Rosie to mark the proper start of Raleigh Costa Rica and Nicaragua 09A - I can't wait!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Burns Night celebrations - Turrialba style!

To celebrate the Project Manager’s return from PPVs, we held a special Burn’s night Ceilidh, all superbly organised by Scots Ross, Kirstin, Stu and Szeman. Speeches included the immortal memory, the Selkirk grace, and the Loyal toast, in which several lucky people became honorary Scots…

Wendy looking very pleased with her authentic Scottish Passport...
Nick, James and Rob all looked lovely in their traditional Scottish dress…

Ross and Kirstin penned a brilliant toast to the lassies and laddies …
We all attempted the toasting of the haggis in our best Scottish accents, and even had some delicious Haggis canapés…
Followed by a very tuneful rendition of Auld Lang Syne…

I'm afraid we didn't manage to get any good pictures of the actual Ceilidh dancing because we were all spinning round so fast that none of them came out! I can assure you though that we were all in-time, fully coordinated and looked great and not that we're not putting up photos because we all looked ridiculous!

Back from PPVs

Everyone arrived back safe and sound from their Project Planning Visits a few days ago and all the Project Managers have since been hard at work writing reports and getting all their plans approved. Here are some of their best pictures from their trips…
The Alpha 1 boys figure out their route...
Some of the scenery on the Corcovado Trek...
Sunset on the Macho Trek... Lisa preparing a gourmet meal for Alpha 2

Alpha 4 in La Cangreja

One of the locals in La Cangreja...

The Alpha 5 girls arrive at Horizontes

Alpha 7 and 8 on their way to Nicaragua

Spilla meets the community in Miraflor...

The beach walk to Conte Burika...

Alpha 9 asking for help with directions...

Friday, 23 January 2009

Project allocations part two…

Welcome back to the second installment of project allocations, starting with our environmental projects…

Alpha 4 – La Cangreja

Rob, Adriana and Charlie will be living right in the middle of the jungle in La Cangreja, Costa Rica’s newest National Park, which gets its name from the striking 1,305 metre peak Cerro Cangreja. The park is home to a mixture of Tropical Humid forest and Pre-Montane forest and a number of species of plant found nowhere else in the world, making this an important area for research purposes and conservation.

At present the government is developing the facilities in the park and during the expedition Alpha 4 will be building a trail from the Rio Negro River that crosses the national park.

Alpha 5 – Horizontes Experimentales
Catalina, Kirsten and Philly will be the first Raleigh team to work in this fascinating national park in the Guanacaste province, which is largely made up of dry tropical forest. The national park is used as a research area that was set up to study the reforestation of dry tropical forests.

During this expedition, Alpha 5 will be monitoring the growth of the different tree species and maintaining the research plantations as well as building trails for visiting tourist groups who want to find out what it takes to reforest the natural forests of Central America. The group will be camping in the jungle and will get a chance to learn about the importance of conserving these amazing forests.

And last, but definitely not least we’ve got our adventure groups, Alpha one and Alpha two…

Alpha one – Corcovado Trek

Nick, Stu and Anna will be starting in the stunning montane La Amistad National Park, the largest national park in Costa Rica and a UNESCO World Heritage site. They will then walk through beautiful mountain scenery and towering cloud forest. After passing by waterfalls and hot springs the group will 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 finishing the trek with a spectacular three-day walk along the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.

Alpha two – Macho Bares Trek
James Bader and Lisa will lead our final Alpha group on the Macho Trek, which starts at Raleigh’s Fieldbase in Turrialba. In the first week they’ll trek through the Rio Macho Forestry Reserve 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.

So there you have it, I’m sure you’ll agree that all seven projects sound absolutely amazing and I for one can’t wait to get out there and visit everyone.

We’re expecting the first project teams back tomorrow evening and then the rest on Sunday morning when they’ll all get cracking on writing their reports on each of the projects, along with some well deserved hot showers! I also heard a rumour that Libby may be undertaking a mammoth baking session to include Carrot Cake and Banana Chocolate Cake to welcome everyone home :o)

Project allocations part one

It’s been quiet at Fieldbase over the last few days since all the Project Managers left for their project planning visits.

Radio reports from all the Alpha teams confirm that everyone has arrived safe and well, and that they’ve all got beautiful sunny weather, which hasn’t quite made its way to Fieldbase yet!

So, here we go with some of the allocations so far and pictures of our happy teams as they set out on their PPVs, starting with our community projects…

Alpha Seven - Achuapa

Katie, Mike and Natalie will be working high in the hills above Achuapa, in one of the poorest most remote areas of Nicaragua, to bring clean and safe drinking water to families in the community of Los Playones.

This project is a multi-stakeholder partnership with the local community, the Cooperativa Juan Francisco Paz Silva, Nottingdale International and Raleigh. At present the local people get their water from the river which often dries up in summer or comes from polluted water sources. The group will be living directly with families in the village and working with the local community to dam small streams and build tanks to collect the water from where it can run through pipes to all the local houses.

Alpha Eight – Miraflor- Cana Florida
Lizzie, Spiller and Sarah will be based in the Miraflor reserve, 206sqkm of beautiful mountainous terrain with various different ecosystems such as 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. The people have few resources and lack access to basic services such as health and education. In the community of Cana Florida, there are currently no facilities for very young children to learn and the community perseveres with basic lessons in people’s houses and so the team on this project will be building a preschool.

Alpha Nine – Conte Burika
Situated on the remote Burika peninsula near the Panamanian border, Kirsty, James Burnham and Helena will be based in Alto Guaymi, in the Conte Burika Indigenous Reserve. The community is extremely remote – to get there you have to walk 8-hours along a beach and then up into the hills behind.

The Ngobe (or Guaymi) Indigenous people who live there are subsistence farmers who maintain the cultural traditions of their ancestors. Currently there is one secondary school in the indigenous reserve built by Raleigh previously, but it is heavily over-subscribed and they have don’t have enough classrooms and so this project will construct a school building from wood which will provide a pre-school for the youngest members of the community.

We'll update the environmental and Trek ones shortly so check back soon

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In the jungle…

Sorry we haven’t been in touch for a few days, it’s been a whirlwind of training since we last wrote - I’m not sure how we managed to fit so much in!

We were all up and out at 5am on Monday to trek to jungle camp, where we learnt and practised all sorts of Ray Mears type skills like how to pack your backpack, map reading, how (or how not to) to cross a river safely…
Camp set up and safety…

How to build a basher bed using a hammock and bamboo…

Aside from the rest of our teams, we also shared our night in the jungle with a myriad of creepy crawlies including tiny frogs, a scorpion, and a giant spider which apparently ‘jumped’ into the girls’ tent and chased them around it resulting in a lot of screaming at about 5am.

Bright and early yesterday, we practised our CASEVAC training on what was the sunniest day we’ve had so far. However this was not the best weather for lugging the heaviest members of our group on a stretcher for 500 metres to the nearest road. The activity was really effective in making sure we’re prepared in case of a real one, but I don’t think our casualties will win any Oscars for their acting abilities.

After we’d all made it back to Fieldbase there was a race for the showers - after one night in the jungle we were all incredibly filthy, I dread to think what it will be like after three weeks!

Finally, in the evening we got the news everyone had been waiting for, project allocations for phase one! Everyone seemed really excited about their teams and where they were going and that they would finally get out into Costa Rica and Nicaragua over the next few days on their Project Planning Visits, or PPVs.

We’ve got seven amazing projects running in phase one so while everyone is out visiting their sites, we’ll put up some info about the various projects and who is going on which ones so keep checking back to see who’s going to be doing what!

Thanks to everyone for all the lovely messages we’ve had on the blog already, it’s great to know you guys are reading it, and hopefully enjoying it – feel free to ask if you want any more info on anything or if you have any questions and keep sending us your messages!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Hello home, hello home, this is Fieldbase, this is Fieldbase, over.

Well we’ve had a very busy few days here at Fieldbase since the rest of the Volunteer Managers arrived.

After a packed schedule on Friday getting everyone sorted with their admin, swim tests, ID photos and lots of extra Raleigh T-shirts, we focussed on getting to know everyone during a very enthusiastic game of touch rugby.

Yesterday we started with extensive radio training in the morning. The radios will be our main form of communication whilst everyone’s out on their project sites so we spent lots of time practising our SITREPS (A situation report to let Fieldbase know how we’re getting on) and learning how to get our aerials ten metres up in the air!

The afternoon was spent tackling health and safety. After we’d all read the 126 page manual thoroughly, we made sure we’d all taken in the salient points by enacting them in the form of comic skits...

But I have to say, I think the highlight was Rob pretending to be a helicopter by wearing pink fairy wings on his head...
Looking good Rob!

Today we’re on to our CASEVAC, or casualty evacuation training and a bit more medical stuff before an early night tonight as we’re all off to jungle camp early tomorrow morning where we’ll be learning all about how to live and work in the jungle! So we’ll try and get a bit more up by the end of today as we’ll be out of contact until we’re back on Tuesday as apparently they don’t have wireless internet in the jungle!!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Busy bees at Fieldbase

Here at Fieldbase, we’ve been busy finishing off getting everything ready for the arrival of the project managers, so there’s been lots of cleaning and tidying to make sure their new digs are good to go, and lots of planning to make sure we can cram in as much training and preparation over the next two weeks before the Venturers arrive.

Here we all are in our official team photo, along with a picture of Fieldbase so you can see where we’ll all be based over the next three months.

In front of the Landrover L-R: John (Driver), Laura (photographer), Lizzy (driver), Helena (Medic), Don Martin (Logistics and Security Coordinator and all-round legend), Ross (Country Programme Manager), Jackie (Admin), Szeman (Logistics), Wendy (Logistics Manager)

On-top of the landrover L-R: Ale (Host Country Venturer Coordinator) Amy - me! (communications officer), Anna (Deputy Expedition Leader), Julian (Country Director)

We've got a big dinner planned for tonight, which Laura and Helena are busy preparing in the kitchen right now, involving the biggest butternut squash known to man!

Tonight is the last time we'll be cooking before the much anticipated Sandra and Rosie (our local cooks) arrive tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll get some pictures of the whole Volunteer Manager team up and introduce you to some more of the team.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Hola Todos!!

…or hello everyone, and welcome to our brand spanking new blog, where we’ll be keeping you up to date with all the latest news and photos from the Raleigh Costa Rica and Nicaragua Spring 2009 Expedition!

The Fieldbase team arrived in Turrialba a couple of days ago and have been busy starting to get everything ready for the start of the expedition at the end of January.

Although we’re super busy already, it still feels a bit like the calm before the storm, as Fieldbase seems bustling now with just eleven of us, so it’s hard to imagine what it will be like when all 129 Venturers and staff are here in a few weeks time!

Over the next few weeks we’ll introduce you to some of the team and tell you a bit about what role we’ll be playing in making sure the expedition runs smoothly and everyone has an amazing time! But in the meantime, here is a picture of us at the beautiful Volcan Turrialba so you can see who we all are.

We’re all really excited about what is already shaping up to be a great expedition so thanks for joining us, and we hope you enjoy reading all about it.