Saturday, 28 February 2009
As I type our group down in Conte Burika are recovering from a hard day of timber hauling. Out of 100 planks these guys managed to transport 80, the local community members were very impressed and invited them to attend their church service. Everyone is in great form, and completely thrilled to be in such a beautiful place. Alpha 9 is probably the most multicultural of our groups with representatives from Hong Kong, Holland, Canada, England, and Wales. Laura and Ross will arrive their on Monday so expect some of Laura's stunning photographs later in the week.
Down in La Cangreja, Alpha 4 have started work, and spent the day digging trenches. The lovely Lisa reports that she has had the best night sleeps ever in her bascha bed, while Wendy (Logs manager) is using her connections to request an interesting array of articles from her beloved bodega including a coffee stand and coffee jug!!! The team has bonded well and are loving their environment. They are determined to not only improve the jungle camp kindly left by the previous Alpha 4 but also out do Alpha 5. So far they have constructed a gym (well a bench press), a games room (a table) and a changing room. Competition is hotting up between the two with perhaps a little encouragement from field base. Working alongside the rangers, Alpha 4 called in this afternoon to let us know they were tired but happy and heading down for a swim in the river to ease their aching muscles- bliss!
Meanwhile way up north in Achuapa, Alpha 7 have arrived at Los Playones 2 where they will complete a project Raleigh began in 08J. This is expected to take a week, at which point they will have a party to celebrate and then continue on with the project started by our first Alpha 7 in the neighbouring community. Divided into pairs the group are settling into their new families with ease. The commitment and enthusiasm for the project has impressed all 4 PMs who can't stop raving about them. Tomorrow they will take on the locals in a game of baseball, as much as we love them, our money is on the Achuapans!!
Alpha 1 are powering through the trek and managed to get to Pittier Ranger Station by 11.30am!!! Having recently done this trek, I can only stress how impressive this is! I couldn't quite believe it when they radioed in at lunch time. This meant they could enjoy a truly beautiful place with one of the best views I have ever seen. Tonight they were met by Ross and Laura with their first food drop, and Sam's precious size 12 rafting sandals which he managed to leave behind. Tomorrow they will take on a jungle section with a lot of up, and a bit of scrambling, but I don't think anything could stop this team. James and Kirsten have nothing but admiration for the enthusiasm and effort each member is putting in. As further incentive their guide for tomorrow reports having seen pumas recently, fingers crossed as I know that James would love to see one of these amazing creatures.
Alpha 8 are fabulous and have now fully completed one wall on the community centre in Miraflor. They too have a day off tomorrow and have a whole range of activities planned, including tortilla making and cow milking.
Alpha 2 are on track and in the lovely Taus where they are staying at a community centre with Amy and Lizzie who are delivering their first food drop. These guys are brilliant, so upbeat despite being covered in mud from the jungle and dealing with the daily rain (yes people it is still raining in these parts!!!). They are heading in the right direction however, and should soon find themselves bathing in the sun. Tomorrow they climb in the cloud forest before dropping down to Puricil, and then heading up again. I saw them briefly yesterday and I can report that they are seasoned trekkers - and that includes the smell. Such great spirits I can't speak highly enough of this group, we will have some photos tomorrow on Amy's return.
And finnally Alpha 5 up in Horizontes. Radio comms with this group are crystal clear and I had the pleasure of chatting to Rosie this afternoon as if she was in the next room. These guys have completed their first day's work with the trees and were settling into their new, improved jungle camp now equipped with basketball ring and wet room. The group are working alongside the rangers and have been seriously impressed with their dedication to the project as well as the beauty of the place, including the spectacular sunsets.
Kirsty wants to let her mum and dad know that she received the message from the blog and is relieved and happy to hear that all is well. She sends masses of love and looks forward to speaking to you soon.
So all in all some incredibly happy people, all doing some pretty amazing things. You guys at home can be really proud of these young people, I certainly am.
Friday, 27 February 2009
So as usual, here is a quick round up of where everyone is and how they’re getting on…
Alpha one spent the night in Alturas last night and are headed to Agua Calientes today (which means hot waters in Spanish) where they will be able to relieve their tired legs in some stunning natural hot springs – I was there a few weeks ago and I can confirm that after a hard day’s trekking it is absolute heaven…Alpha two have been doing a great job of facing the challenges posed by Barbilla National Park, tackling numerous river crossings and tricky climbs.
Alpha four arrived safe and sound and met with the rangers yesterday to discuss the project. They have clearly been practising their Spanish as they managed to complete their SITREP completely in Spanish this morning, delivered by non-Spanish speakers! Today they’re diving straight into work so there’ll be lots of digging and clearing.
Alpha five also met with the rangers yesterday and ended the evening with a beautiful sunset – they are all quite taken with how beautiful it is in Horizontes. Today, although their camp is already set up, they’re thinking up ways to make it even better than phase one.
Alpha seven arrived in Achuapa yesterday evening and had a lovely dinner. Unfortunately they were unable to get the porridge on the go this morning and so had to have sweet bread instead – they sounded very disappointed! They are headed to Los Playones this morning, where they’ll be meeting their host families and getting settled in.
Alpha eight bought some paint for the community centre on their way to San Ramon in Miraflor yesterday afternoon and spent the evening getting acquainted with their new hosts. Today they will be picking up from where phase one left off by continuing with building up the walls.
Finally, Alpha nine did the stunning walk along the beach into La Carona in excellent time yesterday giving themselves most of the afternoon to get settled in. Today they are meeting with the community to discuss what they’ll be doing over the next three weeks, and will pick up the building of the comedor from where phase one left off tomorrow.
I’ve noticed that some of the comments we receive at our end seem to be disappearing into the ether of cyberspace and not appearing where they should be on the blog. But don't worry! We get all the comments through at this end so we can approve them, and this is where we pull them off and print them out to give to everyone – so rest assured that your loved ones are still getting their messages, but they just aren’t always appearing on the blog. Hopefully we can figure out why and fix it soon but in the meantime the messages will continue to be sent out either via the radio or with the road trips.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Alpha two - Macho TrekGeorge Cowan, Amy Tyler, Florentine Bodewes, Julie Verscheure, William Jaffray, Szeman Chung, Isaac Simon, Emma Britton, Adam Young, Catherine Kennedy, Verity Smith, Rose Hunnam, Dirk van Wassenaer, Project Manager Cata, Trek leader Nick and Project Manager Emma
Alpha five - Horizontes Grace Francombe, Thomas Dickson, Viviana Loaiza, Project Manager Mike, Maarten van Keulen, Tom Wright, Jo Scott, Jonathan Rhodes, Rosie Ford, Project Manager Kirsty, Harriet Clarfelt, Joshua Todd, Charlotte Milner and Project Manager Spilla.
Alpha seven - Achuapa
Bliss Godden, Sean Hooker, Caroline Borstlap, Kishan Gandhi, Hana Damirji, Stephanie Lewin, Marvin Poelgeest, Joost Mol, Juan Carlos Gomez, Andrew Riding, Project Manager Katie, Christopher Trimble, Isaura Quintero, Project Manager Rob, Wilder Arteta and Project Managers Helena and Jackie
Alpha eight - Miraflor
Sarah, Emma Van der Schans, Alice Weston and Sophie Wilson
Our phase started with an eight hour trek down the beach before arriving in the village of La Carona situated in the indigenous reserve of Conte Burika.
We immediately set about lugging 50kg pieces of wood over a hilly 3km track. These planks were so huge that they became known as “God’s Chopsticks”.
While carrying the wood was tough, the views from the top were spectacular, we considered ourselves very fortunate to be able to look out over the peninsular and the Pacific Ocean stretching out before us. Back in La Carona with a large pile of wood beside us, we began work on the dining hall. Under the watchful eye of Sebastian we dug, bashed, heaved, whacked, straightened and hammered to produce 54 vertically set planks with the horizontal ones laid on top. From then on there was more wood to be collected before we began planing the floorboards.
Other than work there was plenty of football to be played with the villagers. The home side competed in a mixture of football boots, bare feet and wellies!
We thought we had got used to the Guaymi staple diet of rice, beans and tortillas until one day we were presented with pink custard for breakfast!
We enjoyed a couple of days off, making trips to the beach and to a local waterfall. It was incredible to be guided through the beauty of the untouched landscape that the Guaymi are so lucky to live in.
At the end of the phase we had a dinner with the entire community. We had an immense amount of fun and we were extremely proud of our work in attempting to enhance the lives of the people of a unique and fascinating culture.
Alpha seven spent three weeks in Los Playones, Nicaragua, living with families and helping construct fur local wells. We made lids for the existing wells, mixed concrete and pulled up buckets of dirt from the new wells. We were privileged to experience the excitement of hitting the water level and see this well almost finished at 11.5 metres deep. 250 metres of trenches were dug for a gravity-feed system. A filter made from rocks and pipes was laid, which provided a small section of the community with running water. Carrying bricks and sand dominated our days but we were rewarded with a night spent up the volcano watching the sun set and rise and sleeping under the stars.
The thing that made this experience so unforgettable for me was the way the families took us into their homes with such hospitality. Their openness and friendliness and desire to build relationships with us was truly touching.
Deborah Perry Feb 09
We arrived at Horizontes wondering what tree hugging would entail. We spent the first night in the ranger station and after a good night’s sleep the rangers, Happy, Pew and Jesus, showed us the four hectare plantation we would be working on and the area of woodland where we would create our amazing woodland home. It started as an overgrown forest, but with the help of the rangers we cleared our area and got rid of all the spiders and lizard nests. We built an amazing bedroom, campfire, dining room, kitchen, shower and toilet.
We started work on the plantation. The rangers chain sawed down all the trees and we stripped them of their branches with machetes and piled the wood. Although it was repetitive we had a goal to work towards, finishing the plantation, that kept us going.
After about a week of following this routine we rewarded our group with a trip to a nearby beach where we spent the day relaxing in the sun. We were back to work machete-ing and started the exciting work of measuring the trees with Jesus, the most passionate man about trees ever!
We macheted, measured, played games, energisers and sung round the campfire. We had a spooky party on Friday the 13th and had a wicked time as A5.
We ended with another trip to a beach for 2 days where we relaxed again and saw a turtle laying its eggs. It was the perfect end to phase one with a six hour trek back with Ronald and a warm welcome from Polly with her cast off – wahay! It was a lot of fun!
In this phase we managed to dig trenches along long lengths of an old indigenous path that runs through the rainforest of La Cangreja National Park, construct a quad bike ramp and make a rock bridge with stones pulled from the Rio Negro that run alongside our camp. We achieved over our target early despite some difficulties and harsh weather conditions.
Our sleeping and living accommodation became a pimpin’ jungle camp built from raw materials such as bamboo wood, and man made materials including hammocks and tarpaulins that transformed into what became known as a basher! Sleeping took some getting used to and we all had our uneasy basher experiences. On the first night one venturer was convinced a monkey was on his bed due to all the movement but it turned out to simply be an A-frame companion popping off to relieve himself at the long drop at 2 in the morning.
We formed an excellent relationship with the rangers, all special, different and lovely in their own way. We achieved what we went to do and more, and have made it possible for the rangers to access the forest more readily to improve the ability to defend against poaching and promote scientific studies of the immensely bio-diverse region.
Everyone agreed that all Alpha 4 Phase 1 venturers and project managers had an amazing time and made friends that will be life long in some cases. The digging and hours of pick-axing and heavy labour were worth it for all of us.
Alpha two, united as one, are here to reveal the mad moments in the past three weeks from the mighty macho trek.
A mere two hours from the word go, macho trek had a man down. Dutch man Harm had to be stretchered out in monsoon conditions. Unscathed by the challenge, the macho men and madams regrouped and mountaineered themselves 9 kilometres uphill, more then the mean Mount Everest.
Trekking through jungle, rain and sun, the changing terrain paralleled the rise and fall of emotions of the macho mob. After spending a whole day in the blistering heat trying to get back on track after one wrong turn, we had to improvise and settle for a made up camping spot short of our destination. Little did we know, a couple of hours later, Alpha 2 would be singing around a campfire and spotting shooting stars before sleeping above the clouds – not too shabby!
We continued on our quest to Playa Hermosa, sweating by the bucket, but finding the occasional lifeline – a waterfall in which we could gloriously dunk ourselves… Ahhhhh… refreshing!
Our trek closed in Macho fashion as we made it onto Playa Hermosa and then gorged ourselves on an open fire beach barbeque before riding the pacific waves in full view of the sinking Costa Rican sun.
Shortly we will get up the allocations for phase two so you can see where everyone is headed to today, but firstly here we go with the first of the slideshows with the Corcovado trekkers of Alpha one…
Some of the groups also wrote a summary of what their project was like so here is what Alpha one had to say about their experience...
From day one team spirit was high and usefully so as this was the day we got stranded between two rivers whilst on our lunch break. The result was having to spend the night in an unused farm house in the middle of a tropical storm and consequently losing a day and a half in time.
The team was determined to make up the time however, and after a great night spent on the floor of a church, complete with HOT showers, we had the opportunity. We set off before sunrise with the intention of completing one and a half days - an 800m climb through the jungle, a steep descent through waist high grass and then back up the other side. We had cut it fine but the promise of a spectacular view from the top kept us going up the second hill, with the help of tang and granola bars of course.
The view turned out to be spectacular – we could see the Pacific Ocean and the peninsular which is the home to the Corcovado National Park which we were to cross over the coming days. Corcovado National Park is the fifth globally for bio-diversity and it didn’t disappoint - Monkeys swinging from the tree above our tent, tapirs asleep on the beach, an anteater feeding next to the path where we were walking and even pumas, although only a few of us were lucky enough to see them.
With its spectacular beaches and incredible wildlife, the tough climbs became worthwhile. And our sense of accomplishment, especially at making up the time we lost, was an incomparable feeling of elation.
(Louise Rea and Rosie Ford)
Monday, 23 February 2009
There was lots of screaming and big hugs as everyone started to arrive back yesterday and we all got to catch up with all the people we haven’t seen for the last three weeks…
At the moment most people are in town shopping for the party tonight and no doubt stocking up goodies such as sweets and Pops milkshakes (the best in the world I think – mmmm) They’ll also all be at the internet café so you can probably expect to receive some emails and facebook messages pretty soon.
Before we get all the pictures up though I just wanted to say a few thanks…
Firstly to Sabrin, who I think you’ll all agree has done an absolutely amazing job on the blog over the last few days! It’s been a pleasure to have her here at Fieldbase and she’s been a massive help with all of the comms stuff and helping to plan what is shaping up to be a fantastic Spring Bling Fling party!
Secondly thanks also to everyone at home who is reading the blog and leaving us all the lovely messages. The board outside is jam packed with all of them (14 pages of A4 in very small writing, which are just from the last week!) and the first thing everyone does when they get back is check to see who’s written to them since the last time - so do keep them coming!
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Firstly, from midday onwards tomorrow, groups will start returning to fieldbase and there will time to chill, organise their stuff, get some laundry done for the next phase and most importantly, hand over lots of photos to our communications team so that they can put them up here for all of you to see. There willl then be plenty of time for them to get sorted back into their tents and of course, gossip and catch up with each other about their experience so far. In the evening, there will be a welcome speech to introduce the changeover programme followed by a BBQ with lots of tasty food and we will end the evening with a nice movie.
The next day, everyone will have a chance to go into Turrialba, which is where they will be able to send emails and no doubt, check facebook but most importantly, stock up on their BLING for the party later on. After supper, we will show the skits that each group has prepared, which promises to highly amusing and without losing any time, we will go straight into the most important event of changeover, the Spring Bling Fling Foam Party!!
Once everyone has recovered from the night before, there will be a 'project allocation' ceremony for everyone to find out what their next project will be and to get acquainted with their groups. There will also be some more time then to go into Turrialba and stock of on final supplies. Later on, there will be an opportunity for them to learn about the history of the different areas where they will go for their phase 2 projects and time to get everything sorted, ready and packed for phase 2. They will deploy to their projects early on Wednesday morning and will, once again, set of on the journey of a lifetime.
Everyone over here is getting very impatient about welcoming the alpha groups back to fieldbase and hearing about all their exciting adventures and experiences. We will be sure to keep you posted on how the project's have gone and I am sure everyone is looking forward to reading and returning your much-appreciated comments. Now all we have to do is wait ...
(Good Afternoon Don Martin. Thank you very much for agreeing to speak with me. How are you?)
DM: Bien. Usted?
Bueno. Yo Tambien.
¿Cuánto tiempo ha estado trabajando usted para Raleigh?
(Good – Me too. So, how long have you been working for Raleigh?)
¡Estupendo! Y a que te dedicas exactamente por Raleigh, el día al día?
(Marvellous, and on a day-to-day basis, what exactly do you do for Raleigh?)
Trabajo de guarda y en logístico. Manejar carros, Mandado y Mantenimiento.
(I work in security and logistics. Driving Cars, Shopping and Maintenance)
¿Y usted trabaja todos meses del año?
(And you work here all year round?)
¿Por eso, aparte de usted de ser rodeado por mujeres bonitas todo meses del año, qué le hace disfruta del más acerca de trabajar par raleigh?
(So, apart from being surrounded by beautiful ladies all year round, what do you like the most about working for Raleigh?)
(My bosses and the organization are special - very good.)
¡Que Tuamis! Don Martin, Pienso usted es bastante popular en Turrialba.
Que es usted cosa favorito de Turrialba?
(How Groovy! Don Martin, It seems you are quite the popular guy along the streets of Turrialba, what is you favourite thing about the town?)
Se celebra el dia de amor y la amistad.
(It is celebrated the day of love and friendship)
(Oh Yes. Why?)
Su un día especial para mis.
(It’s a special day for me)
Cada dia, lluvia en Turrialba. ¿Es normal?
(Every day, it’s raining in Turrialba. Is this normal?)
Non. Normalmente mucho calor.
(No. Normally it’s very hot.)
Espero Tan. Y usted cosa favorito de Costa Rica?
(I hope so. And your favourite thing about Costa Rica?)
Hay mucho democracia y mucho natural vistas; volcáns, montanas, ríos.
(There is a lot of democracy and lots of natural sights; volcanoes, mountains, rivers.)
Es verdad. Por eso, todos les venturers y PM’s regros domingos.
Son usted emocionó acerca de su regreso?
(True. So, all the venturers Project managers are returning on Sunday. Are you excited about their return?)
Si Mucho, porque regreso todos mis amigos.
(Yes very much, because it means the return of all my friends.)
Absolutamente. Muchas Gracias Don Martin. Tenga un fin de semana bueno. Hasta Domingo!
(Absolutely. Thank you so much, Don Martin. Have an excellent weekend. See you on Sunday!)
Bueno. Hasta Domingo.
(Cool. Until Sunday!)
Alpha 1 have finally arrived at the beach after solid trekking for days and will spend the next day on the beach, relaxing under the sun.
Alpha 2 are also on the beach, Playa Hermosa, and they are saying their farewells to Bravo 3 who are heading back today with all their news.
Alpha 4 have gone back to La Cangreja to get everything sorted and leave their camp in tip-top order for the next group, before leaving for Turrialba.
Alpha 5 are just finishing on the beach and spending the day heading back to Horizontes before the drive back to Turrialba tomorrow. Ross, Jacky, Laura and Natalie spent a while with them at the beginning of the road trip and have lots of photos of their time there below:
Alpha 7 have set off on their journey back now after visiting Achuapa last night, Bravo 1 joined them for an evening on the volcano and some time in the community and they also have some photos to show for it:
Alpha 8 are with Alpha 7 also on their journey back after an evening in Esteli and cultural enlightment day yesterday. There is a slideshow below of the pictures that Ross, Jacky, Laura and Natalie took whilst they were there:
Alpha 9 had a bright and early start this morning for the trek over the beach out of Conte Burika before the tides comes in.
As all of the Alpha groups prepare to leave their project sites and head back to fieldbase, we are busy tidying up trying to ensure that the 3 days that they spend here, before they deploy for phase 2 on Wednesday, are as eventful as possible. Meanwhile, we are trying to control our excitement as we prepare to see lots of familiar faces and hear lots of exciting stories!
Friday, 20 February 2009
In particular, John (Logistics) expressed an interest in having his head shaved for the expedition so we, especially our trusty medic extraordinaire, Anna, have been hard at work ensuring that his every needs are met:
Meanwhile, I believe that an Alpha Group round up is in order, so here goes:
Alpha 1 had, and I quote, ‘one of the most amazing days yesterday’ and are on the last legs of their trekking before they arrive at the long-awaited beach.
Alpha 2 are getting to the beach today where they will meet Bravo 3 and be able to catch some rays after many long, hard days of trekking. They went crocodile spotting yesterday but had no luck – maybe next time?
Alpha 4 are still enjoying the lovely, sunny weather on the beach today and have assigned some time to work on the finishing touches of their skit this afternoon.
Alpha 5 are having another day of rest and relaxation on the beach, so we are expecting to see some very tanned faces on their arrival!
Alpha 7 are heading into Achuapa today to visit the Cooperativa Juan Francisco Paz Silva, before the journey back to Fieldbase. I hear that the ‘end of phase party’ last night went down a treat with the locals, and that the goodbyes today were very emotional.
Alpha 8 are spending some time in Esteli, the third largest city Nicaragua, after some very heartfelt farewells to the community. They are hoping to get some sightseeing in before they head back to Turrialba.
Alpha 9 have been watching a football match with the locals, and are taking their last afternoon off before their early start on the journey home tomorrow morning.
Watch this space for pictures of the other Alpha groups that should be up as soon as the Fieldbase crew return.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Task One: Skit
During changeover, each Alpha group will have to perform a 5 minute skit on their project, complete with props, costumes, singing, dancing – whatever takes their fancy. The skits will then be judged by an experienced panel, in training as American Idol judges, and the winners will receive a prize. These skits are an opportunity for the group to work together as a team and show off their incredible performing talents, whilst of course having a very good time and providing quality entertainment for the audience. This performance will then be followed by the aforementioned ‘Spring Fling Bling’ Foam Party, which I am sure everyone is looking forward to!
Task Two: Short Film
The Alpha groups will also have to prepare a short film, around 5 minutes, on their project; what they have been doing or the impacts on themselves or the surrounding community. There will also be an opportunity for them to show a more light-hearted, humorous film during changeover to the other Alpha groups and, of course, the Fieldbase team.
Task Three: T-Shirt Design
Last but not least, there will be an ‘expedition t-shirt’ prepared for the venturers and venturer managers to take home with them at the end of the expedition. During phase one, each Alpha group has been asked to brainstorm and pull together some ideas for a t-shirt design and these will be reviewed by our communications team after their arrival on Sunday.
So as changeover time is looming upon us, all of the Alpha groups are keeping themselves busy and finishing off the final touches of these tasks in order to have them ready in time. I am sure they are all looking forward to settling down and hearing about each other’s amazing projects – I know I am!
Meanwhile, we are preparing for the manic influx of venturers and project managers, who are due to arrive from their projects on Sunday for a jam-packed changeover programme, including a well-deserved party. This expedition’s theme; Spring Fling Bling. We are also hurriedly trying to brush up on our Spanish skills, in an effort to impress all the newly fluent Spanish speakers that we are likely to encounter as they return from their projects. So far, Anna is top of league!
Ross, Laura and Jacky are expected back here at Fieldbase shortly, armed with pictures and news from Alpha 5, Alpha7 and Alpha 8. To keep you going until then, here is a quick update of what mischief each of the Alpha groups are getting up to:
Alpha 1 are feeling the hot sand on their feet as they trek across the beach today and prepare themselves for a day or two more of trekking before the grand finale.
Alpha 2 are ready to take on another full day of trekking, including lots of river crossings (which I am sure they are experts at by now!) in order to make it to their final destination tomorrow; the white-sand beach!
Alpha 4 are heading to the beach today for a day of well-earned relaxation. They will meet Bravo 3 there and will no doubt be ecstatic with the marshmallows and hopefully, fresh food for the beachside barbeque, true to classic Costa Rican culture!
Alpha 8 are still hard at work and coming to their last day on the work site before they head off tomorrow with the hope to top up their cultural knowledge with a trip to the museum en route to Fieldbase.
Alpha 9 are enjoying the sunny weather and are making good progress with the floorboards, which they are now sanding down. They will also take some time off today to work on the material that they will be presenting to us during changeover.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
From the moment that Alpha 7 arrived to the small, remote community of Los Playones, covered from head to toe in a mixture of dust and cement after a two day bus journey, we were welcomed with open arms. Speaking as a venturer that spent a week hobbling around the community on home-made crutches, I can whole-heartedly say, and I think I speak for the whole Alpha 7 lot, that we were left in the care of incredibly accommodating people who made every effort to ensure that all of our needs were met.
We settled down to our first dinner with our new ‘Mummys’ and ‘Daddys’, consisting of rice, beans, tortilla’s and a traditional local cheese. We were greeted by a total of seven children and lucky enough to be one of the only houses in the community with a well. Our bedroom also functioned as a corn store, and most of the time, as a chicken pen.
We awoke far before the crack of dawn, to the crowing of the many cockerels, and headed for a thorough wash at either the well or a nearby stream, before settling down to breakfast and, if we were lucky, a chance to help make the tortillas (which happens to be a very specialised art) or milk the cow. We would then begin our day of hard manual labour, digging wells and reinforcing them with bricks and cement, or in my case dishing out large and constant doses of moral support, but never without regularly returning to our households for lunch, coffee and often a mid morning drink.
After the initial shock from the tremendous quantities of food, and a few failed attempts to feed excess tortillas to the numerous dogs, cats, chickens, pigs and cockerels, we managed to settle down into our new lifestyles. The discovery of the tomato ketchup hidden away in the kitchen allowed us to add our own western touches to the food, making the transition a whole lot easier. Besides the standard rice and beans, we were sometimes treated to local delicacies including fresh fish from the Rio Grande or, if we were really lucky, a very fresh Iguana.
Over the next few weeks, we were inundated with numerous marriage proposals from local children, treated to the sweet sound of local songs (we were lucky enough to have a budding pop-star in our family) and bombarded by local children running up to us and screaming ‘Chele,’ which is anagram of the Spanish work for Milk - ‘leche,’ and essentially means ‘white’ or ‘foreigner.’
The Alpha 7 group will no doubt leave the community of Los Playones with plenty of lifelong memories and friendships, new skills, a greater understanding of varying global cultures and the ability to cook up a classic Nicaraguan feast, if they so please, for many years to come.
Szeman and John are also back from their road trip to visit Alpha four and so we also have a slideshow of some of their pictures…
Finally, a round up of what all the other Alpha groups are up to…
Alpha one are in the Corcovado National Park enjoying their very well deserved day off. So far they have seen lots of monkeys, wild pigs and a small snake. Today they are off to see if they can find some of the bull sharks that sometimes swim into the estuary – although don’t worry, I doubt they’ll be taking a dip!
Alpha two are making their way towards their stop for the night at Delicias and are now just two days away from the beach!
Alpha five are packing up their jungle camp today in preparation for a trip to the beach to over the last few days of phase one
Alpha seven are back to work today and looking forward to the arrival of the Bravo one team who should be arriving about five o clock this evening with much needed chocolate and Pringles!
Alpha eight have been busy bees! They had their visit from Bravo one yesterday so I’m sure they are all filled up with goodies from the shop! As well as the building, English lessons, learning to make tortillas etc, the team have also found time to paint a giant caterpillar on the side of the school, whose body has twelve parts so it can also be used as a calendar – pics to follow when Bravo one returns!
Alpha nine will be finishing off the foundations for the Comedor today, are still lugging more wood, and will hopefully be able to make a start on the floor later on today.
Tomorrow our final road trip will leave to drop off the last of the food to Alpha two when they reach Playa Hermosa and hopefully our intrepid Nicaraguan explorers in Bravo one will return with some much anticipated photos from Alphas 5, 7 and 8. Sorry we haven’t been able to get any photos of those groups up yet, the projects unsurprisingly don’t have computer or internet access so we have to wait until the Fieldbase teams have visited them and come back with the photos – rest assured that as soon as they’re back in the office we will be pouncing on them for photos before they’ve even had time to ask if anyone’s put the kettle on!!
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Yesterday we had yet another huge food delivery, which Wendy and Julian are busy counting in the Bodega right now. We’ve also been planning the schedule for changeover, including, most importantly, the food and a big party!
I went up to CATIE this morning to stock up on stamps ready for everyone to send their letters home during changeover and to collect the post – as you can see we’ve had absolutely loads…
Apartado Postal 17
Codigo Postal 7170
Items take around 3 weeks to get here from Europe so make sure you don’t send anything past about mid-march or it might not arrive in time!
Of course all this time the Alpha groups have been busy getting on with their projects so here we go with more Alpha Groups updates…
Alpha one have made great progress and last night made it to Los Patos Ranger Station at the edge of the Corcovado National Park. They celebrated with a cake for Sophie’s birthday! Today they are heading through the park to La Sirena, where they will have a very well deserved day off tomorrow and will hopefully be able to some really cool woldlife including Tapirs and monkeys. Here are some pictures of Corcovado National Park from our previous treks so you can see where they'll be…
La Sirena Ranger station where Alpha one will be staying tonight...
Alpha two had an early start this morning in order to climb the mighty Cerro Bares, where they were rewarded with stunning views towards the Gulf of Nicoya with its many islands. Apparently they can see the beach they're headed to and it looks (and I quote) "a. ma. zing!" Later today they are heading on to Galan.
Alpha four have had a spring cleaning day for their jungle camp. They’ve made such good progress on the work in the park that they are now starting on phase 2 work early!
Alpha five are ploughing through the tree measuring. Last night they rocked the jungle with a live music night with the park rangers!
Alpha seven held a cultural exchange evening with the local community last night. Today they are continuing with their well digging and concreting and are going to be taking a well deserved break this afternoon with a trip up the local volcano.
Alpha eight had an early start this morning. They were up at 4am to climb up to watch the sunrise, after which they helped the community dig out the river that supplies the village with water, as it tends to block up with sand and debris from time to time. This afternoon they are having a bit of a break and are waiting for the arrival of some of the Fieldbase team. Tomorrow it will be back to work as usual.
Alpha nine have been making good progress on the foundations for the Comedor. They’ve also used up all the wood they lugged down the hill last week and so have been collecting more, although I think they were quite relieved to find out that this wood is a lot closer!
Sunday, 15 February 2009
It was a jam packed program with an Alpha Group round up, followed by world news, then the all important sports scores, entertainment and odd ball news – Did you hear a 21 year old tried to break into a French bank, he tried to drill through the wall into the safe, but instead drilled into the lavatory where he was arrested!
Then the hotly contested quiz, this week’s topic was ‘Valentines Day’ and it was a close competition with A4 and A7 coming to a tie breaker question. A7 pipped A4 to the post and took the title for the second week in a row (although I am not sure if last week really counts as they were the only listeners)
We all sung happy birthday over the radio to the 6 venturers and VM’s who have birthdays this week. So as well as listening to Radio Raleigh here is what the groups have been up to - as it has been the weekend a lot of them have been relaxing!
Alpha 1: It is still hot hot hot for this lot (temperatures of 35 degrees at the least), they walked along the Interamerica (the road that connects North to South America) for a good stretch yesterday and are sleeping well at night after very long days! Today they enjoyed finally seeing the beach and I am sure they will prepare a special rations dinner for Sophie's birthday tomorrow
Alpha 2: Are getting their third food drop, including some fresh food which will be a nice break from all the cans tonight. So far the rain has held off, they have had warm but cloudy days over the last few days, great trekking weather. They even had a quick swim in river at Plomo yesterday!
Alpha 4: Enjoyed their mountain climb and have been hard at work improving the trails that they have been working on. They also placed a order as long as my arm for sweets to be brought in with their field base visit tomorrow! Seems sugar is worth more than gold here!
Alpha 5: Put on great party for field base, although apparently the theme was not Valentines Day it was Friday the 13th. So they were all dressed as Zombies while our field base team wore bright pink and red!!
Alpha 7: These guys have also started giving English lessons at the local school. They have also begun digging trenches and today the group enjoyed a day off and are relaxing in the sun!
Alpha 8: It’s been hot and sunny here and the group have part completed the walls of the community centre. After a trip to a waterfall today there will be the community party which they are all looking forward to, esp. as it's Toms birthday and the field base team are due to arrive
Alpha 9: Have been relaxing and they also went to visit a waterfall 25mins walk away from their work/ camp site. They had a little shock the other day when they discovered a huge scorpion that had 20 babies with it. Not to worry the locals got rid of them!
Friday, 13 February 2009
Here is a slide show of all the photos from the trek…
Alpha nine are also doing really well. La Carona is a magical place, really calming and completely beautiful. The community was very welcoming and we were immediately made to feel at home. Despite the hard work they’d got us doing, we were sad to have to leave after just a couple of days.
Whilst we were there they managed to collect the last of the wooden posts down from the forest. They had been working incredibly hard to get this done, as we can testify - after lugging two of the 50kg posts down in one day, Wendy and I were absolutely exhausted. The walk up to fetch to posts is about 2km and all up and down hills and the posts are very heavy and quite awkward to manoeuvre up and down the trail back to the village. Saying that the views from the top were incredible, you can see right down to Punta Burika, the southern most point in Costa Rica.
These posts are being used as stilts for the Comedor, and since we left them, the group has now got all of the posts in around the edge and is starting on the middle ones today.
Appetites in both groups are healthy as they practically inhaled the selection of sweets and chocolate we brought with us. The marshmallows went down particularly well with some of the local children in La Carona…
And for all rest out you out there here are our other Alpha Group Updates
Alpha 2: This lot have had a couple of huge hot days since we saw them last. The sun has shone on them since they crossed the range over the to the Pacific side of the country. They have had some long days and they have climbed their first major peak ‘The Dragon’
Alpha 4: Have been hard at work on the trail and have decided to give themselves a day off today. They are being taken up Cerro La Cangreja (the mountain in the centre of the national park) by the park’s administrator. I wonder if they will see the Scarlet Macaws the area is know for?
Alpha 5: The group loved their beach trip, they played volleyball, football and many other ball sports. They have been back to worth since their return but they are taking some time out today in order to prepare for the ‘Pimp my Basher’ competition to be judged by the Fieldbase team when they arrive
Alpha 7: Are now onto digging and constructing well number 5! They are building up their strong arm muscles by carrying lots of heavy bricks but ot to worry the chocolate is on its way to them in the back of the Land rover!
Alpha 8: This group have well and truely become part of the local community. They have been taking turns teaching English at the school and have had tortilla making classes with one of the families! I am sure they will all be cooking these when they get back to the UK!
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Jackie, Szeman and I returned yesterday with Photographer Laura in tow from Alpha 2’s second food drop.
Our trip took us high into a mountain range (around 2500ft) to where they were camping over night outside a ranger station. It had finally stopped raining on them and they fed us well (I think you may get the idea that food is very important to me – it is!). The day before a food drop on trek is often a feast of all the remaining food from the last few days - Ready Steady Cook, here Alpha 2 come!
As we have Laura back we have pictures from her time with Alpha 2 so I have put together a short video of the pics, enjoy!
Just a quick note to about pictures of all the other Alpha Groups. Wendy, John and Amy back at Fieldbase after their visits to Alpha 1 and 9 late tomorrow so we will have their stories and photos to share with you. And over the next week or so our Fieldbase crew will be paying visits to all the other Alpha groups and on their return we will have pictures to show you all.
But in the mean time here is another quick update on the groups. I have put as ask out to them for funny stories about their projects so I will hopefully have more info to share with you over the next few days.
Alpha 1: Have meet with a local guide who will be taking them though some thick but beautiful jungle. They are walking 10 hour days and they a report the weather is still hot and sunny!!
Alpha 4: Have build a quad bike ramp to meet the bridge at the start of the trail and are digging drainage trenches on the side of the path they are carrying out maintenance on. This is sure to be necessary considering this area is a very wet rainforest in the rainy season
Alpha 5: Are taking some time out from their work routine today and off to the beach (a two hour walk away) for the night some fun in the sun! Apparently their Valentines Day party is a costume party as our Fieldbase team have been told to come prepared!
Alpha 7: Have been busy digging wells (onto number 4 now) and preparing bricks and concrete to reinforce these. They have been making requests over the radio to ensure that on the visit from field base the shop is stocked full of chocolate!!
Alpha 8: Although a little overcast they have finished digging the foundations of the community centre and are getting ready to concrete and finish off these in the next day or so. They are also planning a party for when fieldbase visit as it will be Tom's birthday as well!
Alpha 9: Enjoyed their visit from Bravo 3 (Wendy, John and Amy) and report that work is going well (finally they have finished carried wood). They have up close and personal with a sloth, been to church with the community and they are also off to the beach today for some R&R!
Fieldbase: It has stopped raining!!
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Breakfast: Porridge, either with sugar or jam, and yes there is tea and coffee for those who need a little caffeine in the mornings!
Dessert: Energy bombs (a venturers favorite and mine as well!!) A simple mix that you can try at home. Mix coco powder with porridge oats and add a tin of sweetened condensed milk. Some people add nuts and raisins into this as well. Mix together – get your hands into the mix and shape into balls and serve. Here are some that I made earlier to take out to Alpha 2 on their second food drop tonight.
Just because you wanted to know the first Radio Raleigh show was a huge success (esp as I was wearing my new very appropriate t-shirt!) Jackie sung, Ross played the guitar and Szeman, Anna and I gave out the news. It was great for us and... Alpha 7, who were the only group tuned in at 1600! A few other groups called after the show apologizing for missing it; apparently they were all walking or working!! But because we were in a good mood we filled them in on the sport scores and world news.
The quiz topic was Rain… and since I only got to share my interesting facts about rain with a few people I will share some with you. Did you know the largest raindrop size recorded was 10mm. And did you know that the animals most likely to fall from the sky during a rain storm are fish, frogs and birds in that order!
and most importantly a quick group update for you all...
Alpha 1: Meet up with Bravo 3 and received their food drop. They have been walking in the hot hot sun, but they have passed by some hot springs... I wonder if they went in?
Alpha 2: These guys have had it tough with all the rain but it should clear as of today and if not the food drop and visit from Bravo 3 they will get tonight will surely brighten them up!
Alpha 4: Are all moved into Jungle Camp, and have been hard at work on the first part of the trail, making the start of the trail accessible for the rangers’ Quad bike. They are and this is a quote from Adam “Jamming in the Jungle, having the time of their lives”
Alpha 5: Have been hard at work making their camp home, everyone in this group is well and and they are all having loads of fun measuring the trees.
Alpha 7: The only group to listen to Radio Raleigh, they are all celebrated VM’s Natalie’s birthday in style and are enjoying the hot hard work.
Alpha 8: Have had a bit of rain but they are getting on with their work. The group enjoyed a day trip to the small town on Yeli about 8km from San Ramon.
Alpha 9: Have been collecting lots of wood, have finished clearing the area and are starting on the foundation for the building in the next few days. They are also getting a visit from field base today, and yes they have taken the shop with them in their backpacks
Sunday, 8 February 2009
As I have mentioned before our main form of communication with our Alpha groups is via these radios. They radio in twice a day, once to give us what’s called a SITREP (situation report) that lets us know what they have been up to and once to do a radio check and receive or give any messages. All our radio reports follow a set format so that the sender and the receiver are on the same page. Here at field base we have radio speakers around the building that are on all the time and someone sleeps in the radio room should a group need to call in to talk to us.
We all get given radio training about background theory, how to set them up, what frequencies to transmit on and the correct voice procedure, I won’t bore you with all this but it includes things like learning the phonetic alphabet so we can spell words, Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta etc. and using words like Roger, Copy That and I Spell.
In addition to receiving updates on their work it’s also a chance, especially in my case, to have a bit of a chat to the groups!
So back to the important part… each Sunday at 1600 we broadcast Radio Raleigh and with any luck all the Alpha Groups will have their radios on and will be tuned in to hear us! This weekly update includes sports results from around the world (we have around 15 nationalities here so this is a big section), world and entertainment news, fun facts, an update from each Alpha Group and a quiz! I was thinking about having the quiz on
NB: Luckily the weather has cleared up here, thanks for all the nice comments and sympathy we received from you all!! Unfortunately the snow went as fast as it came so we were unable to get any more photographic evidence for you, you will just have to take our word for it...
Food is very important, not only to me but also to our trekkers! Yesterday saw our first food drop to Alpha 2!
The food bags were packed into the back of the Bravo 3 (The Hylux), and John, Wendy and I jumped into the cab (along side the all important shop stocked with sugary treats) and off we went!
We followed the dirt road the trekkers had walked along earlier that day; driving through sugar cane fields that were being harvested, over pot holes, across bridges that spanned swollen and flooded rivers all the while the rain never let up!
Dispute all this the trekkers were in high spirits and pleased to see us, or pleased to see the chocolate either way the group were all doing well and enjoying themselves!
Today the second road trip begins. Wendy and John head off to deliver food in Bravo 3 to Alpha 1, visit Alpha 9 – I am sure both groups will welcome them with open arms, once again this maybe due to the chocolate they bring!
And just as you have all been asking for a quick update on where the other groups are at.
Alpha 1: It’s been hard work for these guys trekking through thick jungle, complete with river crossings but they are looking forward to meeting up with Bravo 3 today.
Alpha 4: Are putting the finishing touches to their jungle camp today and starting work on the trail tomorrow.
Alpha 5: Have finished their forest camp and are getting busy measuring trees – I hear they are planning a Valentines Day party for when field base visit them in a weeks time!
Alpha 7: Are all settled in well with their families, enjoying the home cooked meals and working hard, they worked until close to nightfall last night!
Alpha 8: Their foreman (quote “a great guy”) has been teaching the venturers all the skills they need to build the community centre, which they are using today as they start work.
Alpha 9: Enjoyed a campfire with the community last night and have started carrying wood to their building site. No small task as this is over 2km away!
Friday, 6 February 2009
That's right folks - we can empathise with all of you Europeans as snow has hit Turrialba, Costa Rica for the first time ever. Rest assured, all of our Alpha Groups are enjoying lovely sunshine, but here at base we have been snowed in. Today was spent making snowmen and having snowball fights...extraordinary scenes. Our communications systems are still fully operational so we are very jealous of our groups who tell us they are basking in their usual tropical climate. Who would believe it?!