Sunday, 12 April 2009

The final 09A blog

It seems strange here at Fieldbase now that everyone has left, although it still doesn’t quite feel like it’s over. On Friday morning, four buses arrived and after many, many hugs and tearful goodbyes, the last of the venturers left to either head home or begin the next part of their exciting journeys. And by now all those going home should be back safely, and I don’t doubt that there will have been many more hugs and tearful reunions as they arrived at the airport. As for the Venturers still in Costa Rica, I can confirm from various emails and facebook messages that they are thoroughly enjoying the beach in Puerto Viejo!

Back here at Fieldbase, the whole place has been tidied and thoroughly scrubbed clean, reports have been written and now it seems the staff are having the same problems as the venturers in contemplating how on earth we’re going to fit everything back into our backpacks, before we all leave Fieldbase for the final time in the morning.

Before we go though, there are a few final thanks to everyone who has shared this journey…

To the Volunteer Managers and in-country staff, this expedition would not have been possible without your continued hard work and enthusiasm. You have all worked tirelessly to make sure things ran smoothly and help the Venturers have an incredible 10 weeks. You can be so proud of everything you have achieved.

To everyone at home, again, thank you. Your messages of love and support have inspired us, made us laugh, made us cry, and kept us going up all those hills in the pouring rain and the blistering sun!

And last, but most definitely not least, Venturers, you have all been amazing! The energy, enthusiasm, humour and hard work you brought to this expedition every day has helped to make it one of the most successful ever. I know coming on Raleigh has been a huge challenge and that you have all achieved things you never imagined possible at the start. Remember the fourth challenge, and use what you have learnt to continue to make the world a better place and make a difference to the lives of others. We wish you so much luck and happiness for the future and please don’t forget to stay in touch.

I can’t quite believe that this will be the last blog for 09A, and although it feels incredibly sad at the moment, we must remember new friends made, the amazing things we have achieved and the exciting futures that lie before us.
And so to sign off for the final time, here is one of my favourite quotes that reminds me to push myself to acheive things I didn't think possible and to live life to the full. I hope it may do the same for you.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things
that you didn't do than by the ones that you did.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Not long to go now

The non-UV, UV tribal party last night was so much fun, everyone really embraced the theme and looked absolutely fantastic...

Sophie Wilson, Harriet, Lucy and Grace
Maarten and Dion
The boys, Will P, Oli L, Calum, Sam, Nick, Tom P and Will J.

Kyran, Tom D, Libby and Tom W in their matching shell suits...
Today, most of the venturers have been white water rafting (in fact they've just come back with huge grins on their faces raving about how much fun it was!) and some visited Guyabo, whereas a few of them have been staring at their kit for several hours this afternoon wondering how they're going to fit it all in their backpacks again!

In the office, all the staff have been rushing around to make sure everything is ready to go for tonight and tomorrow. The DVDs have been burned (over 2300 photos for them to show you when they get home!), the expedition T-shirts picked up, canapes prepared (crudites with hummus, sesame chicken, bruscetta and nachos - yum!) and most importantly we have been finishing off the final slideshow and the Golden Mess Tin awards.

It's been an emotional day, looking back at all the photos of when they first arrived and how much everyone has changed, and over all the amazing things they've done. There have been many teary eyes as we've pulled them together today, I have to admit mainly from me so far, although I think everyone will be at it later on this evening!

I'll upload some pictures,and the results of the awards tomorrow morning after everyone has left for the airport, but in the meantime, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our readers who has been following the blog for the last 10 weeks. I cannot tell you how much your messages have meant us throughout the expedition, it's always the first thing people ask when I visit the projects... "have you got the blog messages?!" and I have hugely enjoyed reading them all every day.

You have made us smile, and had us all in fits of laughter (Kayleigh's mum you're leading the pack on this one!). You have also had me in tears, at the kindness of your words, and the pride and love you have expressed every day. The recent messages of good luck and inspiration as we near the end have touched us all over the last few days. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us, you have helped to make it even more special.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A time for reflection

Everyone arrived back at Fieldbase safe and sound yesterday and it feels like they've never been away. All the groups were back by mid-afternoon and immediately Fieldbase was buzzing with everyone catching up on what everyone else has been doing in their last phase. After all the kit had been thoroughly cleaned (and I mean thoroughly) we had some hugely entertaining skits last night, the funniest yet I thought, with Alpha nine from Conte Burika taking the final prize, with Conte Burika: The Musical…

This morning most people rushed in to Turrialba to catch up on emails, change flights and phone home etc. For those that are going home on Friday, it's also their last chance to buy souvenirs etc, because this week is Semana Santa, or Easter Week, and the whole country is on holiday and all the shops will be shutting down this afternoon for a long weekend!

This afternoon the venturers are back with their first phase alpha groups and undertaking a big review of the expedition. This session will give everyone the opportunity to reflect on their Raleigh journey and what they’ve achieved. They’ll also be talking about what happens next; what they will take away from the Raleigh experience, what they want to commit to when they return home, and how the expedition has affected both them as a person and their plans for the future.

I know from both talking to everyone here and reading the messages from home that this expedition has had a massive impact on all of our venturers and staff, so I don’t doubt that it is going to be a powerful and emotional session. I also know from all your wonderful messages that not only has this been a journey for everyone out here but also for you all at home, so I’d like to share with you two of the stories we use in these sessions, along with a few of the final photos of our phase three groups…

The Station

Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the window we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village hails.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restless we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering - waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

"When we reach the station that will be it!" we cry. "When I'm 18" "When I buy a new 450SI Mercedes Benz!" "When we put the last kid through college" "When I have paid off the mortgage" "When I get promoted" "When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!"
Sooner or later we must realise that there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

"Relish the moment" is a good motto. It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more icecream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
By Robert J Hastings

The Starfish Story

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”
Original Story by: Loren Eisley

Alpha one at the end of their beach walk in Corcovado National Park

Alpha two when they reached Playa Hermosa

Alpha three at their final destination at Playa El Rey

Alpha four at Playa Hermosa
Alpha five at Playa Naranjo in Santa Rosa National Park

Alpha six at their Ranger Station at Playa El Rey

Alpha nine in Conte Burika

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Phase three finished!

It with both great excitement and a little bit of sadness that we are preparing for the final time for all the groups to come back to Fieldbase this afternoon. All the groups are safely on their buses now and we're expecing the first group back between midday and one. The terrace has been scrubbed and tables set out, Sandra and Rosie our cooks are back preparing another delicious dinner, and we're ready and waiting to collect all their photos, project summaries and of course, dirty laundry!

The next few days of wash up are going to be absolutely jam packed. When everyone arrives back today they've got to clean and scrub all their group kit so that it's gleaming, and then straight into phase three skits this evening!

Tomorrow there's more kit sorting to be done, and then a big review session in the afternoon when everyone goes back into their phase one alpha groups and looks back over the Raleigh experience and what it has meant to them - I expect this will be quite an emotional session for everyone involved as they look back over their incredible journeys.

Tomorrow night we've got a big UV party, complete with DJ and body paint!

On Thursday some of the venturers are going white water rafting along the mighty Pacuare river (All the Volunteer Managers went in January - it was a lot of fun!) or visiting the Guyabo National Monument, before heading back to Fieldbase and packing up all their kit. In the evening we have a black tie dinner, where the Project Managers will be serving dinner (complete with canapes!) followed by the Golden Mess Tin awards and then the final slideshow- and I don't doubt there'll be more than a few tears for this. And then finally, after many teary goodbyes, everyone will be packed on to their buses in the morning as they head off to the airport, or wherever they are headed to next.

When everyone is back safe and sound and we've managed to trawl our way through all their wonderful pictures, we'll get the final project photos and summaries up, along with news of how wash up is going.

But i'll leave you with this... It has been yet another incredible phase, and in fact an incredbile expedition. Once again I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone by, it really does seem like yesterday that I was standing in the airport waving a clipboard looking for all our tired/nervous/excited venturers. I know the whole team at Fieldbase are bursting with pride at how much the groups have acheived and how wonderful every person here has been over the three phases. You should be very very proud of each and every one of them!

Pura Vida!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Trekkers taking a well-deserved break at the beach

By the time most of you are up tomorrow morning, all three trek groups will have finished their treks and will be chilling out on some of Costa Rica's most stunning beaches!
Alpha one have reached La Leona after a tough beach walk today, and by way of celebration, and I quote, are "going to bed late and getting up late!" They sounded very happy about that, they were up at 3.30am this morning, I know because I spoke to them when they called in at 4.15am!
Where the rainforest meets the beach in Corcovado National Park

Alpha two have arrived at Playa Hermosa, where they received a warm welcome from the rangers. They're looking forward to their final food drop tomorrow, when Szeman and I will deliver all manner of BBQ type food, including burgers, sausages, buns, and most imprtantly burger cheese and ketchup!
Sunrise at Hermosa...

Alpha three, by the time you read this in the morning, will have made it to Playa El Rey, a little further down from Alpha six. The beach, famous for its nesting turtles isn't open to the public so they'll have the whole beach to themselves (well bar Alpha six, but they're at the other end of the 15km beach). Szeman and I are also dropping BBQ goodies off to them tomorrow afternoon, as well as several hammocks, so I expect they'll be mostly swinging from the palm trees for the next few days - bliss!

Sunset at Playa El Rey...

All three groups sounded absolutely elated to have completed their treks. Between them they have covered over 11,000 kilometres and climbed double the height of everest. They have braved torrential rain and blistering sunshine, crossed rivers and camped in remote wilderness and jungle. It will have made most of them want to cry at several points, but I'm sure each and every one of them will tell you when they get back that the four am starts, tough climbs and up to 10 hours trekking a day with over 20kg on their backs pales into comparison with the incredible views, abundant wildlife and the huge sense of achievement to have finally finished! Well done trekkers!

Szeman and I are off on the food drop early tomorrow morning, but we'll be back on Monday with more pics and news of all the exciting things we've got planned for when everyone gets back to Fieldbase on Tuesday.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Phase three drawing to a close (and photos of Alpha three!)

With just four days now until the end of phase three all of our Alpha groups are working their socks off, the community and environment phases to finish all their work on time, and the trek groups to finally reach their beaches! Every day when we hear from the groups, they all sound just so happy and content, but there’s also a real sense of excitement starting to build about coming home and starting on their next exciting adventures.

I’ll start off with the trek groups…

Alpha one are having a very well deserved day off today and are spending it at the stunning La Sirena Ranger Station right in the heart of the Corcovado National Park. They are heading off along some trails around the park in search of monkeys and tapirs and will no doubt also be spending some time at the beach. Tomorrow they have their final day of walking along the deserted beaches to La Leona ranger station.

Alpha two conquered the mighty Cerro Bares yesterday and were rewarded with some stunning views and a magical sunrise. At 8.20 this morning they’d already reached their destination at Delicia and are pushing on towards the coast and the beautiful Playa Hermosa.

Alpha three had a hard day yesterday after we left them at La Lira (photos from the food drop are below). They walked 24kms with lots of ups and downs and did three river crossings. Despite this, they are still a day ahead of schedule and today are heading to El Brujo. The group are aiming to arrive at Playa El Rey on Sunday, where they will meet up for a party with Alpha six and of course have some well-deserved down time and a final chance to top up their tans!

It’s still raining on Alpha four in La Cangreja and this has made it tricky for them to get to their worksite. They’re pushing on though and hope to have the path completed by the end of the weekend.

Alpha five have also had some rain. It’s usually very dry in Guanacaste and so when we originally set up the camp we decided not to put up tarps over our basher beds so we could all sleep under the stars. Unfortunately, the light drizzle that started at midnight last night, had turned into torrential rain by 2am and the whole group ended up wet through and had to sleep in toilet block. Not great fun, but despite this, they’re all still in good spirits and I expect will mostly be spending today drying out! They’re also finishing off the paint scraping and will hopefully be able to start paining the toilet and shower blocks, as well as finishing off the remaining few BBQs, before heading back next week.

Alpha six in Playa El Rey are one of the few groups who have escaped the rain so far. They’re carrying on with clearing the coconuts and also preparing for what sounds like a huge party for when Alpha three arrive on Sunday.

And finally, Alpha nine in Conte Burika have been subjected to thunder and lightening storms every night for the past week. The good news is that they were finally able to pick up the materials they needed to finish the comedor from Panama a few days ago and they have been working hard to complete the roof and windows ready for the grand opening on Sunday.

As promised here are a few pictures from the Alpha three food drop yesterday…
Alpha three ready to head off in the morning, L-R we've got Marvin, Tom D, Wendy, Jo Thompson, Adam McVie, Sean, Fran, Joost, Charlotte, Sophia, Holly, Kuo-Jam, Tom W, Dean and Rob.
Tom W was able to come with us to see his group and was very sad to have to say bye again the next morning...
Tom D, Charlotte and Holly
Dean, Kuo-jam, Sean and Adam as the group prepare to head off
Wendy all set to go...
Jo and Sean, and Rob below, waving us off

The group as they head off towards Savegre Abajo
The stunning views from the road down from La Lira

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Pictures from Alpha four in La Cangreja

Well, Lizzy one of our drivers, is back at Fieldbase after a stint as Project Manager with Alpha Four in La Cangreja. Luckily she's a dab hand with the camera and has brought back some lovely photos of the group for your delectaion.

The group are all getting on really well, depsite having quite a lot of rain and working extremely hard. As I was with Alpha five, Lizzy has come back absolutely gushing about how fantastic the group, project and location are. I asked her to sum up the experience in five words and this is what she said...

"Hmmm, that's tough, I'd have to say Beautiful, Special, Amazing, Chilled...and really hard work!"

Alpha four - Mike, Emma, Bruno, Andrew, Louise, Juan Carlos, Sarah, Steph, Roz, Charlotte, Vee and Johannes.
The beautiful river near their camp
Juan Carlos, Mike and Louise keeping up their fitness regime, although with all that hard work digging I'm not sure where they get the energy!
Mike, Steph, Charlotte and Roz hard at work
Steph making easy work of the trench digging
Vee showing off her excellent shovelling skills
Bruno and Charlotte taking a well deserved rest
The group hald a Welcome to the Jungle party and everyone got into the swing of things with some really quite creative fancy dress, given that there were no fancy dress stores nearby! First up we have Vee and Emma as jungle fairies, apparently making a wish to stop the rain! (but unfortunately it didn't work and is still raining)
Roz as a jungle hippy
Sarah and Mike looking somewhat grumpy as Tarzan and Jane
Lou and Andrew as the king and queen of the jungle
Johannes doing his best frog impression
Juan-Carlos as a tree
Vee, Charlotte and Emma on Charlotte's birthday
Mid way though the phase, and to say good bye to Lizzy, the group took a trip to the amazing Playa Hermosa. It's a magical place and has the most incredible sunsets. Here are Andrew, Lou, Sarah, Mike and Emma watching the sun go down...
And finally, the whole group at sunset

I'll be posting a few more pics from Alpha three shortly along with a round up of all the other Alpha groups and how they're getting on in their final weeks.

Road Trip to Alpha 1, 4, 6 & 9

Julian and Szeman have not long returned from their road trip around south and central Costa Rica. Unfortunately they experienced some technical difficulties and could not digitally record anything (they didn't have a camera).

Anyway, don't worry, we have drafted in a local artist. He has created the wondeful impressions below based on Julian and Szeman's tales. Enjoy!

Here is 'Action Man' Stu conquering another Corcovado mountain. His bag is awfully heavy in this picture as they've just had a food drop.
Next on the trip came Alpha 9. Here they are in a group shot. 8 out of 9 happy venturers isn't bad. Up the road to Alpha 6 and Playa El Rey - this is William Jaffray riding an Olive Ridley turtle just like a donkey up to the Ranger Station.Finally, here is Project Manager Sarah Bickerstaffe having a snooze on her hammock after a hard morning digging at La Cangreja (Alpha 4) Hopefully we'll have a few more impressions up soon, but don't get your hopes up - this particular artist only works on one day of the year. Hasta Luego!