Friday, 18 December 2009


Field base has been a whirlwind of action over the last few day since the Zulu groups returned from their various projecta. They arrived to find field base looking very Christmassy, and got straight into the usual round of swapping stories, skits and parties. There were also some additional surprises to mark the end of 09L . Raleigh project partner and all round legand Brigido Sosa came all the way down from Achuapa, Nicaragua to perform a concert for us and had everyone on their feet dancing.

There was also the Christmas banquet, where super chef Sandra, with the help of the pms, whipped up an amazing Christmas dinner complete with gravy, bread sauce and stuffing!

The evening was topped off with the prestigious Golden Mess tin awards. Winners included best comedian Mo, Margarita with the spirit of Raleigh award, best male venture Felix, and Rachael with best female. Below, Julian and Rich present the award for most ridiculous outfit!

The next morning there were many tearful goodbyes as everybody left for San Jose and beyond. Hopefully, everbody has arrived home safe and sound by now, and are having a great time catching up with friends and family, end enjoying the creature comforts that they have been living without for the past 10 weeks.

So all that’s left to say is a massive thank you and well done to all of the venturers and staff of 09L. It has been a fantastic expedition, and it’s success has been down to the hard work, energy and dedication of all those involved. Thanks also to all of you who have been following the blog over the last 3 months. It’s been amazing to read your messages of love and support and to see how much they meant to the people who received them.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

09Ls art projects

As you may have seen from other blog posts, this expedition we have been lucky enough to have had an artist among the team of volunteer managers. Full of energy and creativity, Becca has bought another dimension to the expedition, encouraging staff, venturers and members of the communities in which we have worked to express their creativity and try their hand at making their own works of art. Becca's vision on Raleigh has been to make art accessible and appealing to everyone, regardless of their past exerience and ability, and to this end she came up with a range of projects that everyone could get stuck into and feel part of. The best example of this has to be the community centre, where each member of the Raleigh team and each member of the village, from babies to grandmothers left their colourful handprint on the wall. Becca also created her own work of art, a series of poems printed upon photos of the places which inspired them, and this in turn has inspired staff and venturers to write their own poems, many of which are now proudly displayed in the windows of fieldbase. Below is a selection of the artwork created by 09L.

The work of 09L

Becca on her birthday with absent PM's David the photographer and Alex the driver brought to life in fieldbase

One of the most exciting projects which every member of 09L fully embraced was the challenge to look at the environment in a different way. This was inspired by Michelangelo's perfect circle drawn in 1508 and the aim was to find as many perfect circles in nature as possible.

Land Art-The Costa Rican flag and the Raleigh logo created from Raleighreallia (everyday Raleigh objects).


Costa Rica

Even in the Jungle, Becca found ways to keep out of mischief by making a chess and monopoly board out of an old piece of wood she found.......

...and she created a mosaic to mark the beginning of the trail Raleigh constructed, which was the pride of the Park Rangers.

While living in the community Becca and the whole Miraflor crew put on an art day with the whole village, it was well attended, starting with the children making pasta jewelry and ending with the local Policeman doing a painting. This got all the community excited about the art that was to be painted on their community centre and they all seems very proud.
The village of El Zacaton asked for this local bird- a Quetzal, to be painted on the wall, and it was the talk of the village..........

and the hand prints of every member of the Raleigh team and all of the community of El Zacaton. 'La union hace la fuerza' translates as, 'Unity makes us strong'.

The other end wall was decorated with a world map, which some of the community members had never seen, so after painting it, a red dot was put on the map to mark where each member of the team came from.
Note from Becca
I have been so inspired by all the ideas and passion that I have witnessed in the members of 09L. Some of my most memorable moments of this expedition were; sitting in a rainy Jungle with 8 ventures crowded around a table drawing in candle light, then to see people who said they couldn't draw end up painting the most beautiful birds and animals on the wall of the community centre in El Zacaton, (Dudley, Joe, and Dennis you know who you are), to see all the work displayed at the end of this phase, and there is so much of it, to see people's poems hanging in the windows and to have the absolute support of all the VM's, PM's, Ross, Julian and Don Martin without any of who the art wouldn't have been the success it has been.
Tonight there will be a showing of the short films the venturers have made.
I have been so happy to have been here on 09L with such an amazing group of people. Becca

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Zulu One reach the beach

Wednesday night saw Claire make her return to the group, accompanied by Dr Deep. After many a happy hug Zulu Won (not 1 by the way) settled into an uncomfortable sleep on a school floor in Potosi ready for the next day.

After the previous week of going from strength to strength and breezing through 25km days in immense heat, the group awoke optimistic and confident. Thursday was the long-awaited Volcan Cosiguina day. Accompanied by guides, the 8km walk uphill was easily achieved despite being loaded down with a ridiculous amount of water bottles. That night after setting up camp, the group watched the sunset above the spectacular lagoon crater of Cosiguina. It was truely incredible.

Waking up once again to the sound of I´ve got you babe and other classics from Rich´s Ipod, the group prepared for their final day of trekking- 31km in fancy dress! Princess Ian, Thomas the Tank Engine in a skirt, Brittany Spears, two Ineses and more made their way up the volcano once again to watch the sunrise. Once again, it was incredible. Powering down the volcano, determined to get to the beach at Mechapa and into the village of Cosiguina, there were many pulperia stop-offs and a few strange looks from the locals. Wolf-whistling at Ian aside, the locals seemed to take it all in good humour as we approched the 18km mark.

Exhaustion and heat took it´s toll however and Zulu Won found themselves dacing the final km with only one option.....Tara would have to put on her infamous heels! Needless to say, Tara hobbled to the beach in a worthy last place where the whole group fell exhausted but happily into the sea. After one day of chilling out on the quiet beach, Zulu Won headed back victorious to field base. ZULU WON MARIBIOS!!

Zulu Won!

On Volcan Consiguina

The stunning view ....

..admired by the group

Dressed to impress for the final day of walking

Ailsa with the two Ineses


Zulu 4 say adios to Camaronal

We spent our final few days at Cameronal putting the finishing touches to our bridge and celebrating the end of an amazing phase. We are very proud of the first bridge we built which looks impressive and is standing strong. The second bridge was more of a challenge as it crossed a small river and the level of the water table meant that our foundation holes rapidly filled with water. Limited resources and basic tools meant that progress with the second bridge was slower. We managed to finish erecting the foundation posts for the bridge and cemented them in place; the next Raleigh expedition will use these to finish the bridge.
Saturday night saw some classic Raleigh fancy dress. We made some impressive costumes using props from the natural surroundings and bin bags. Highlights included Borat thongs, Father Christmas and his elf, a fish, sumo wrestler and a pineapple. We played some party games including a flexibility challenge which involved us picking a box off the floor with our teeth (we were suprised by Jo and Mo´s flexibility!). There was also a blindfolded taste game which saw us eating some horrible combinations of Raleigh rations, mixed by Clint. Rachel particularly enjoyed eating a spoonful of refried beans, macaroni cheese powder, chilli powder and condensed milk. Needless to say, we are looking forward to Christmas cooking! We´re back at fieldbase now and very excited to be whitewater rafting tomorrow and experiencing mixed emotions about returning home on Thursday after an incredible 10 weeks. See you soon!

A final day on the beautiful Camaronal beach

Some creative costumes

The girls show off their outfits

Rachael getting into character

To Matapalo and beyond

There’s been blood, there’s been sweat and there have been tears. We’ve finished our projects in El Cacao and Matapolo and are currently at Field Base but it’s been one hell of a journey. Having finished work on Saturday the community was primed for our leaving party. The party was a long event spear-headed by the charismatic Brigado who spoke, sung and played guitar. The crowd gathered to hear his melodic strumming were not disappointed; their favourite undoubtedly being the “agua song.” After a quick meal (maybe it was chicken, maybe it was pork, we’ll never know) we were invited to dance. A few of the group members had been given the opportunity to showcase their talents earlier in Piñata but the blaring reggaton music saw the whole group and much of the community strutting their stuff on the dance floor.

After the despedida we swiftly moved onto Matapolo, a somewhat sleepier place than El Cacao and settled into life with new families putting our constantly improving Spanish to the test. The work here was hard with the community well spread and temperatures very hot. Nonetheless we were able to bring water to 4 of the houses there in a short space of time and our work was really appreciated by the community, something which meant a lot to the group. A highlight of our time in Matapolo was the afternoons after work spent washing in the beautiful river and the mini-trek which we did on our last full day to Guanasape and then camping out under the starlight as a group to round off our final phase of the expedition. After one final despedida when Felix and Noah said there second tearful goodbye (a third would follow in the morning) to their “mums” from El Cacao who’d made the 3 hour walk, the group was ready to leave.

Zulu 5 had a phase to remember and we are all extremely grateful for everything our families from the communities did for us. Thank you for reading everyone. We’ll be home soon!

The lovely Zulu 5

Trench-digging pro Thea

With the local children

A spot of clothes-washing at the river

Gemma proved to be a dab hand with the machete

Helping out with the sesame harvest

Felix on his way up the mountain

A summary of Zulu 6s phase in Yorkin

By Christine Harry

Located 4 hours south of Raleigh HQ in Turrialba, on the border with Panama, the BriBri indigenous reserve of Talamanca is very isolated. We set off down river in dug-out canoes, a 45 minute trip cutting through the jungle, with Costa Rica on our right and Panama on our left. When we arrived at Yorkin we did not know what to expect, but we were met very warmly by the BriBris. Our home for the next 3 weeks was truly stunning- an ecotourism centre on the banks of the river. Seventeen years ago the women of Yorkin came up with a pioneering initiative to improve their community. Their idea was to create a co-operative directed solely by women, an idea which ran counter to prevailing gender roles and contemporary social values. Despite facing many challenges, the women succeeded in creating an organisation which makes and sells traditional handicrafts work, with all profits being divided equally between the local communities and workers. Now they also host volunteers and offer tours of the area. The co-operative- ´StiBrawpa- Mujeres Artesanas´- has three main objectives: to preserve the BriBri culture in an increasingly globalized society, to protect the natural environment and to generate money to support the families and thus prevent people leaving Yorkin to find work elsewhere. It was very inspiring to hear how the community turned their fortunes around and it really put the work we did for them into perspective. The BriBri had been badly affected by a massive flood in 2008. It washed away the ecolodge, the school, the medical centre, many houses, and with it all that they had worked so hard to achieve. Our group rebuilt a 300 metre path which had been obliterated. It was challenging physical work but our group got on so well it made it a lot easier and very fun, too. We worked with a local engineer to finish off a new bridge, and when we completed the path we began working alongside locals to construct a new bathroom and also some benches. In addition to our work, we were able to gain a real insight into the BriBri culture. We had workshops on traditional handicrafts, using a bow and arrow and even chocolate making! The women´s co-operative also gave us talks on the origins of the business and their culture and traditions. We also had the opportunity to learn some of their language, BriBri. Towards the end of our stay we were lucky enough to visit a beautiful waterfall just over the border in Panama. It was a tough climb to reach it as it is in the middle of the jungle, but well worth it to be able to spend the day in such a stunning location. All in all, it was a very special and enjoyable 3 weeks.

Laura and Oli out the finishing touches to the bridge

At the worksite

The group with one of the benches they made

Sampling the locally produced chocolate

Sam tries his hand at chocolate making

Gigi, Laura, Sam and Oli at the waterfall

Zulu 3 enjoying the waterfall

A wet departure in canoes

Zulu 2 final blog

By Betty Chivasa and Benita Sabharwal
On day 13 the warriors decided to trek 30km just to avoid camping outside in the cold. We walked on an extra, excruciating 6km which was no match for us and it all resulted in a lovely roof over our heads, a shower and real toilets.
Day 14 was a grave day for us as we lost one or our own; Toni, to the hands of field base. We mourned and as warriors do we soldiered on to the base of the dragon.
On day 15 we saw amazing views and took a power nap 2500 meters high on top of Cerro (summit) Dragon. We then trekked on 1 Costa Rican kilometre, A.K.A 7 English kilometres to a community centre.
Day 16 we went on a 13 hour rollercoaster which wasn’t all fun and games. Half the warriors broke down going up hill and the rest going down hill. It was a tough day but we made it through and thanks to Hamish and Dennis sweet talking the locals, we got a house to stay in that night to heal our wounds.
Day 17 was our final day of trek. We walked in dire heat to reach the beautiful pacific beach. On arrival, rucksacks were thrown off and the Zulu warriors ran into the sea, some with their boots still on, some hugging and others crying and screaming from happiness.
We spent our last day at the beach, relaxing in the sun to even out our atrocious boot tan lines, whilst also enjoying the sea and having a BBQ and bonfire.
Coast to coast trek has been a tough experience for the warriors but we pulled through it together, helping each other every step of the way. We are all proud to be part of Zulu 2!

The warriors!

Happy to have finally reached the Pacific

A celebration on the beach

Final Zulu 3 Blog

By Sarah Harris

A final update from Zulu 3 at Cabo Blanco! We are pleased to say that we have finished working on the path. We are all really relieved as the 10km walk through the humid jungle was really taking it's toll on us. As well as finishing the path we also helped out on the tourist information stand and built a slpiway onto the beach for the coastguards to launch their boats to prevent illegal fishing off the coast. Don't worry- as well as all this work we have still managed to have enough time to relax and more importantly to work on our tans. Weit also turned barber for a day, leaving Erick with a cool new look for his return to field base. We had an emotional last few days in Cabo Blanco and were very sad to say goodbye to such a beautiful place and to leave behind our pet coati Steve. On our last night at Cabo Blanco the ranger treated us to an amazing meal of smoked fish, salad, rice and beans. It was a delicious meal and a lovely way for the rangers to say thank you. All of us in Zulu 3 have bonded really well and we are all going to miss one another. Now we are back at field base we are going to make the most of our last few days of Raleigh. However with all the talk of Christmas and presents, we are looking forward to getting home.

Erick gets a haircut from Weit

Rachel takes some time out from digging

Hard at work on the slipway

Paula and Riz at the worksite

The boys show off their new gangster look- not so sure about Simon's!

Tanne at tourist informtion

Tanning queens Tanne and Clare

The Zulu 3 ladies