Sunday, 29 November 2009
Upon arrival, the venturers received the warmest welcome imaginable from the villagers, with delicious lunch of rice, chicken, squash and plaintains – Que rica! The village itself is an interesting blend of traditional and modern culture – with intricate thatched roofs and solar powered lights. The matriarchical women of the village gave us a welcome talk where they emphasised how much they valued our help and that they considered Raleigh to be new friends. The Venturers have been made to feel at home by the community, staying in a comfortable ecotourism lodge, a breath away from Panama. There is even a make shift bridge connecting the two, which won Guy’s approval (he’s a Chartered Bridge Engineer)!! As far as work goes we have cracked on with a new ‘Sendero’ in the village leading to the bridge. Great progress has been made already. We also plan to construct a new bathroom, as the previous one Raleigh built was washed away by flash floods last year. The community also have some fantastic activities planned such as a day trip to a waterfall in Panama (no border crossing required when you are in the middle of the jungle!), cultural exchanges such as craft lessons, bow and arrow making and just to make y’all jealous, chocolate making (Be wö Béshewa tsuru – That’s I like chocolate in Bri Bri in case you’re wondering!)
There has also been a sly porridge making competition. Laura and Gigi set the bar ridiculously high, blowing everyone’s socks off! Guy and Kier naturally retaliated by soaking the oats overnight, “I’m taking over the world via porridge making!” exclaimed Guy.
The Venturers couldn’t be happier and are truly awestruck in this fantastic community – ‘This is Zlue 6, Out.’
Gigi Walsh & Christine Harry
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
This morning it was project allocation time again as the venturers found out were they would be going for their third and final phase. This phase there will be two new projects, as the Miraflor and La Cangreja projects have now been completed. So X-ray 3 will be heading off to Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica’s first ever national park. The group have the best of both worlds as they will be living next to the beach and working in the jungle, where they will be building trails to allow better access to the park. Meanwhile, X-ray 3 are off to Yorkin in the indigenous reserve of Talamanca on the Panamanian border. As the village is very remote, the journey to their project will involved travelling down a river in dug out canoes. The group will be working with a woman’s co-operative which grow cocoa in order o produce chocolate. As well as helping the cooperative with these activities, the group will be rebuilding a health post which is visited by doctors twice a week to provide primary medical care to the people of Yorkin. So here are the all new Zulu groups …..
Going on the Maribios trek where they will enjoy some stunning views of Nicaragua and climb two volcanoes are Zulu 1. They are Jack, Sam Wilson, Matthew Pitman, Jake, Ian O’Connor, Claire Ludlow, Ailsa Bryce, Ines, Dudley, Emma and Puck Hendriksen and pms Tara and Rich.
Off to beautiful Cabo Blanco are Zulu 3, made up of Riz, Simon, Charlotte, Clare Watson, Sammy B, Ash, Tanne, Urania, Veet, Paula, Erick, Paula and Sarah. Raquel will be the pm for this project, along with me (Ray) for the first half of the phase and Becca for the second.
Saving the turtles in Camoranal are Zulu 4. They are pms Pedro and Sarah, who will then swap out with Clint and Sheila, and venturers Craig, Mo, Hardeep, Sarah Lavell, Aurelia, Catherine Spence, Drew, Sam Davie, Rachael, Katy Ball, Erika, Joe and Thomas.
Returning to Achuapa to continue the water project in El Cacao are Zulu 5. They are pms Dania, Deep and Ed along with Noah, Felix, Ailsa Mann, Sabina, Gabo, Andreas, Anneli, April, Kyle, Matt Nash, Gemma and Thea.
Having climbed mountains, constructed community centres, saved turtles, built paths and dug trenches, the x-ray groups were reunited at field base again for the second changeover. After having some free time to swap stories, compare blisters and make up for the lack of junk food over the last 3 weeks, the groups got on stage and performed skits for each other about their experiences on phase 2. The standards were high and special mention has to be given to x-ray 2 for their film ‘The Mominator’, expertly filmed and directed by Craig with Mo in the lead role. However, the winners were x-ray 1, with their A-team themed skip, featuring Sandeep with his freshly shaved Mr T hair.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
By Sabina Hussain and Rizwan Dasu
After 15 days of trekking in the Nicaraguan sunshine through some breathtaking views, the tired but triumphant X-ray guns reached the beach in style and were finally able to have a well earned rest and give their weary feet a break.
Before reaching their final destination, we faced one final challenge- to climb the mighty Volcan Consiguina. We stormed our way up and were rewarded by stunning views from the top. We camped at the top, and enjoyed both the beautiful sunset and sunrise before making our way down to the bottom again and walking the final stretch to Mechapa.
The 3 weeks of trekking were not plain sailing and we faced many challenges. The combination of the heat and the long days of walking proved a real test of both physical and mental endurance. However, we pulled together and supported each other through every stage of the trek, and arriving in Mechapa and taking those final steps towards the beach was an emotional moment for everyone.
Living in the community gave us all an opportunity to really experience local life in Nicaragua. We all got to milk cows early in the morning. Rachael won the cow milking competition and Drew received an extra special present when a cow named pat splattered all over his arm!
Resident artist Becca hosted and art day for the community which saw the xtremes and the locals painting, making pasta jewellery and plastecine models.
Work continued, with Paula and Dudley doing an excellent job of cementing the floor. We enjoyed a day off in Estelí, and returned to find that the roof had appeared on the community centre, making it finally start to look like a building. With the main construction work done, it was time to decorate the building. Becca and Denis, with the help of the group painted the walls with conga monkeys and toucans.
The competed community centre was opened on Saturday, and the occasion was celebrated with an English style fete, complete with fun games and music followed by our last dinner together in the evening. The party also saw the last touches being added to the decoration, as each member of the community and xtreme 6 left their handprint in brightly coloured paint on the walls. Nobody was allowed to leave without leaving their mark on the community centre, as hand checks were conducted to check that everybody’s hands were suitably colour stained.
Thankyous and words of love were exchanged with our families and within the group. We had finished building the community centre and our job was done. It was time to leave the village in peace. No more rice and beans!
Plastering the walls of the community centre
Taking off our boots and dipping our tired, blistered feet into the Pacific made every last hill worth all the effort – and this trek has taken a lot of effort! Day 16 saw one of our toughest days yet, a 22k day up two steep hills in the midday heat (making a change from rain at least!) followed by a massive descent from over 2000 metres to practically sea level. Not only was it physically challenging (by this stage even our super tough PMs were struggling, their older knees less capable of dealing with the hills) but it was mentally tough being able to see the sea and yet know we still had a fair distance to go.
Waking up on day 17 was like waking up too early on Christmas morning, exciting but impatient that there are still a few hours before the fun starts! It was another mentally tough day, we knew that the previous group had arrived by midday making it a relatively short trekking day, but walking along one straight line with nothing but the beach to think about made time drag. One of the greatest moments of the trek was coming up however when we saw a sign to the beach we were heading to, showing it was only 4k away. That was when the realisation sunk in that we had trekked for 228k and we were on the very last stretch. Following a quick stop for some tasty snacks, a nice change from cold baked beans, we were on our way and the last four kilometres ended up flying by. As we rounded the bend to get our first proper glimpse of the sea, Sarah was standing to meet us and we were all together again as we had started at the Caribbean.
Upon arrival at our campsite, boots were flung aside and bags removed for the last time and we began our well earned relaxation time – making the most of the fact the sun had finally decided to join us by soaking up some rays and cooling off with a healing dip in the Pacific. Sunday saw another whole day of relaxation and making secret Santa presents, followed by a bonfire and a reminiscence of the highlights of the trip. These ranged from the epic falling over in the mud of the jungle, reaching our highest point of the trek, experiencing the generosity of the Costa Rican people, bathing in the river, and of course our first glimpse of the Pacific ocean.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Since the last blog, X-ray 5 have been hard at work digging more trences to even more houses, building tanks to store the water and laying pipes. The project finished with a big party thrown by the community which involved 30 dead chickens, a piñata and cake! We also gave speeches to our families and sang our national anthems. A few special mentions were made by the community. This included Dr Sarah for looking after those that were ill, Ashley, known as ‘la maquina’ or ‘the machine’, for his ability to lift giant rocks and Benita, who was praised for her hard work and dance moves. Other members of the group have played vital roles in our phase too. Betty has captured the hearts of many members of the community. Thom has been entertaining everyone with his sarcasm and his version of Spanish “el luncho”. Patrick lost miserably in a dance of with a 14 year old girl. Clare became an expert in the art of mime in order to communicate with the community. Alvin has made us laugh with his famous quotes such as “ha ha you’re dead” to the losers of games of mafia. Erika kept great communication with members of the community while Urania organised and hosted the amazing leaving party. Christine has been our fantastic Spanish translator. Gisele received a live chicken as a leaving present. Jake has been entertaining the local children with football and other games. Sarah has become addicted to Pinol, the national Nicaraguan drink, and is taking the recipe back to England while Kat drank the village out of coca cola.
We have ended the phase on a high, dancing and celebrating with the community. We will never forget the moment the water was turned on and the smiles on everyone’s faces.