Sunday, 29 November 2009

Zulu 6 Blog: Arriving in Yorkin

Shas Kena! Greetings from Zulu 6 and the indigeneous village of Yorkin. The phase began with an adventurous journey on dug out canoes – which we all found a bit wobbly! However, the amazing scenery and the fact that Panama was literally arms length away made up for it!
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

New project allocations

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.

Zulu 1
Zulu 2 will be embarking on the coast to coast trek, starting on the Caribbean coast and making their way to the Pacific in just 19 days, trekking through jungle and across mountains. In Zulu 2 are pms Alex and Dani, and venturers Denis , Patrick, Benita, Daniela, Hamish, Chas, Toni, Alvin, Vicky, Tara and Betty.

Zulu 2

Hamish being initiated into the group

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.

Zulu 3

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.

Mutant turtle Sheila welcomes Sam into the group

Zulu 4

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.

A fitting welcome to the water proejct for Ailsa

The Zulu 5 team
And finally, Zulu 6 off to eat lots of chocolate and of course build the health post in the indigenous village of Yorkin. The lucky group are Sam W, Oliver, Christine, Margarita, Laura, Reina, Alex, Lawrence, Wellard, Gigi, Kier and Cesar

Zulu 6

Vegas baby!

Last night venturers and staff got glammed up in their best clothes for Vegas Night. Field base was transformed into a Vegas style casino with poker, blackjack, russian roulette among the games on offer, overseen by expert croupiers Dev, Norman, Pedro, Julian, Zoe and Ross. Fortunately nobody ended the night broke as the currency for the night was various coloured matchsticks. For those who weren't into gambling there was also a dancefloor where they could show off their dance moves. Tonight the entertainment continues with The X (ray) factor-photos to follow ......

Norman the croupier deals for game of blackjack

Poker faces!

Sam pondering his next move

Elvis a.k.a Julian

Dev oversees the roulette table

Chicas lindas

Venturers return to field base for second changeover

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.

X-ray guns a.k.a the A-team

X-ray 2 reenacting their coast to coast adventure

Matt and Ian in their jungle book themed performance

X-ray 5 make their TV debut

A serenade from the girls

The X-ray 4 rappers

X-ray 6 reliving their emotional goodbye in El Zacaton

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

X-ray 4's final days in paradise

X-ray 4 received a warm welcome back to field base after a slight delay due to their bus getting stuck in a river on its way to collect them! They left Camornal having completed the steps to the viewing point, a new bridge and several new carved signs in addition to the hundreds of turtles eggs that they rescued. The team are now experts in the art of spotting turtle tracks, the barely visible dark lines that lead them (and unfortunately the poachers) to the turtles. They have worked around the clock on the turtle patrols as well as completing their daytime construction duties, and have still found time to enjoy take in beautiful sunsets on the beach. On Saturday, they headed of to the nearby beach town of Samara and enjoyed some nice food and some fun on the beach before camping out under the stars.Their time on the beach gave them some time to reflect upon the experiences of the past three weeks, on the hard work they have done, the friends they have made and of course the turtles that they have rescued. The were sad to leave their little bit of paradise but took away with them memories that they will treasure forever.

Felix and Tara hard at work

At the top of the 'steps to heaven'

The group with their sign on the steps

Relaxing on the beach

A final celebration!

X-ray guns cross the finish line

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.

The group at the top of volcano Consiguina

Watching the sun rise

Some of the stunning scenery the group saw along the way

X-ray 1 make the last steps of the trek together

An emotional hug for Wellard

Margarita thrilled to have completed the trek

Showing off their guns in the sea


Xtreme 6 celebrate the opening of the community centre

By Paula Lam

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

The local children enjoying a day of art in the community

The local policeman also got stuck into the art!

Putting the final touches to the outside of the community centre

Painting the world map onto the building

The finished community centre

The team and the community celebrate the opening

The coast to coasters reach the Pacific!

By Charlotte Parker
Before we embarked upon our trekking adventure, one question that we were all desperate to ask those who had already trekked was do the highs of the phase outweigh the lows and I am pleased to tell you that the answer amongst the X Ray 2 members is ‘What lows?!’. Walking round the last bend to discover that we were only 200 metres away from the sea, so close that we could practically taste the salt in the air, it was hard to control our emotions as we had one last group huddle and walked the last few steps linked together, as we had started the trek 17 days ago. There was no mistaking the grins (and a few happy tears) on people’s faces as we realised that we had actually trekked across a continent – and had a great time doing it!

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.
It was no surprise that when ranking our trek in our review back at field base, everyone scored the experience 10 out of 10; and we were all in agreement about the reason why – we had a fantastic group. Of course there were a few lows but these never lasted more than a couple of hours, as the rest of the group pulled together to help those struggling. We started the trek together and finished it together, accumulating many in jokes along the way, and sharing many laughs and stories as a group that spends twenty four seven together will do. When asked whether there was anything we would change about the trek, our answer was a unanimous resounding NO!
Paradise: The destiation that made all of that walking worthwhile

A well-deserved rest

The final stretch

April and Mo take their final steps across the continent

Ailsa, Thea, Sam and Kyle showing mixed emotions about the end of their trek

The girls soaking up the sun on the beach

Monday, 23 November 2009

X-ray 5 say goodbye to El Cacao

"Cockle doodle doo" has been our 4am wakeup call for the past 3 weeks. X-ray 5 now feel like part of the community and have taken part in arm wrestles, football and volleyball matches, but failed at all to our dismay. We are all now used to our staple diet of rice, beans and tortillas. Ed and Dani have been keeping us entertained with farmyard Olympics. This involved catching animals such as pigs, chickens and ducks.

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.

Ed, Betty and Ash hard at work

The group take some time out from digging to pose for a photo

Fun and games at the pms house

Alvin playing with the local children

Jake giving the piñata a beating

Benita teaching some English while being filmed by Turab

The group preparing to leave el Cacao