Friday, 28 August 2009

Phil's Alpha 2 diary

Dedicated project communications officer Phil Maund has been keeping a diary of the first few days in Camaronal to share with you all at home..........

Day 1 (20th August)
We departed field base at 0900 and travelled west towards the coast. We soon arrived at the Playa Camaronal ranger station where we were introduced to the resident ranger, Nelson, who showed us around our home for the next 3 weeks. Facilities include a large covered social area, with adjoining kitchen with fridge and even a washing machine! Some of the group decided sleep in the attic of a separate building available to us and the remainder put up hammocks under a covered verandah.

Day 2 (21st August)
The morning was spent organising the huge amount of food for the phase, radio was set up and living areas tidied. Group contract, roles, roster and risk assessment were discussed after lunch on the beach itself. Although swimming is prohibited on our beach, merely standing knee deep in the water was exciting enough due to the incredibly strong waves, sometimes knocking people off their feet. During the evening a presentation was given by Nelson which covered species of turtle found on Playa Camaronal, objectives of the nature reserve and what work we would be doing.
Day 3 (22nd August)
First morning of work planned was to be on a new footpath that links the ranger station to a cliff top view point 3 km away at the other end of the beach. Due to large amounts of rain the area has had recently, walking to the work site was very difficult due to standing water. After one hour of trying to get there, it was decided to return to the ranger station. An alternative route would have to be found. The remainder of the working day was spent gathering large pieces of drift wood washed up on the beach into large piles and burning them. This is a very important task since the drift wood can prevent the turtles coming onto the beach to lay their eggs.
The day ended with a massive highlight. To celebrate PM Laura’s birthday, dinner was a massive BBQ. Minced beef from the nearby shop allowed Lisa to make homemade burgers. The group also feasted on sausages, pasta salad, homemade guacamole dip and Nacho’s special rice.
Day 4 (23 August)
It was decided initially that the only viable way of getting to the footpath worksite was by Nelson’s 4x4 vehicle. Once we all got there, most of the group decided to climb to the final viewpoint. Although the route has been cleared of most vegetation, the terrain is very steep so our task was to cut steps into the hillside to complete the footpath. The view from the top was amazing. The entire beach can be seen, including the ranger station and well beyond towards the rising hills inland. In the opposite direction, nothing but perfect azure Pacific Ocean. This view allowed us to see that simply walking along the beach would be no problem and we all agreed it wouldn’t be a to bad of a commute to work! By the time we decided to lay down the spades and pick axes, we had completed just over 120 steps.

The Ranger station at Camaronal
Day 5 (24th August)
The morning commute to work took around half an hour and we were making more steps by 0830. However, even at that time the sun was string enough to make some of the venturers exposed skin go a mild shade of pink. Although the temperature working on the footpath was cooler than on the beach the humidity was astonishingly high due to all the trees around us. This unfortunately made all of us sweat buckets and a group decision was made to stop work a little earlier. As we came onto the beach, we saw that the tide was almost fully out and the sea was much calmer. So after a thorough risk assessment, everybody ran into the sea - the perfect way to cool off!

Back at the ranger station, Lisa and a few of the other ventures were keen to find some way of baking Laura some kind of belated birthday cake. Collectively we designed and constructed a ‘Ray Mears’ style oven by digging a suitable hole in the beach and lining with rocks. Lighting a fire on top of the rocks heated them to cooking temperature and once covered with palm leaves and soil made a perfect oven. The Bravo 4 vehicle with Guy and Sarah turned up conveniently just as the cakes were coming out.

The late evening was spent doing our first turtle patrol. Everybody got to see at least two female Riddley turtles come ashore and lay their eggs. In order to prevent poachers from taking the eggs, they are moved to a turtle hatchery. Numerous pieces of information have to be recorded including size of turtle, location, time and number of eggs. It was tiring work with the last of Alpha 2 got to bed at 0130.

Day 6 (25th August)
Guy and Sarah were keen to see the footpath worksite. The walk to work was a little cooler but carving steps was just as perspiring work and around lunch time, everybody was on the beach. This time we had come prepared with inflatable beds that Phil used as make-do body board. Meanwhile, others discovered that there was fun to be had throwing each other into breaking waves. It only seemed appropriate to dine our guests in style with another BBQ!

Alpha 4 in Playa El Rey

Thanks to Ben and Oli for doing a great job looking after the blog in my absence. Guy and I have just returned in Bravo 4 having visited all four Alpha groups on their final phase 3 projects and we're pleased to report they are all in good spirits and making the most of their final phase.

Guy and I on route to the Alpha groups
Guy and Bravo 4
Some friendly crocodiles we passed on the way!

First up was Alpha 4 in Playa El Rey. They are living in a ranger station on the beach waking up every morning with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. They begin work early in the morning to avoid the midday sun, clearing the beach of coconuts and fallen palms to make way for planting of trees. In the afternoon its time to relax and enjoy being at the beach as it gets too hot to work and in the evenings it time for turtle patrol.

Alpha 4 arriving at the ranger station
The classic human pyramid
Harry and Guy competing to see who gets the best shot of the sunset!
Guy taking a break from photography to help out the group by sharpening a machete
Sarah, Guy and Gemma raking up Playa El Rey
Harry after a hard morning raking up palms and coconuts

Coming soon - more news and pictures from Alpha 1, 2 and 3!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Final Blog from DEL for the Fabulous 09G Brigade

Zulu 3 Triumphant at the top of Cerro Bares

The stunning trekking scenery

Zulu 2 Mid-Trek

Amy, Sophie & Freya admire the outlook

The Evil Coronel Roscoe will not tolerate invasions on 'his' Island

His menacing Guards...

...and the prisoners who helped the Venturers with their tasks:-

Having created their new Jungle/ Beach camps, the Zulu groups Morse-Coded a request for dinner to the boat crew who obligingly dropped off some delicious Red Snapper and some veggies. Fortunately the Coronel’s pier-based Siamese Twins had provided the groups with a sheet on how to prepare their fish from scratch and the groups duly gutted, filleted and cooked it using their camp fires. This sustenance provided them with the necessary skill and audacity to steal a sail from Coronel Roscoe’s Prison Guards, who were distracted by their evening dance party, which instructed them to be at the Pier at 6:30am the following morning. Some robberies were undertaken with such craftiness that the Guards were oblivious but they were delighted to capture several unfortunates who were made to pay penance in “The Hole” in the middle of the dance-floor.

The next morning the Zulu groups appeared from the jungle and after a second breakfast of watermelon and pineapple, looked up to find the Evil Coronel perched on a concrete bunker, instructing them to create a raft from bamboo poles, oil drums, rubber rings and ropes. Only one group from three would earn their freedom from San Lucas Island and his tyranny.

Rosie secures the binding on Zulu 2's Raft

Ninety minutes later three sleek water crafts had been devised whereupon the dastardly Coronel instructed his Guards to handcuff the Prisoners to each other using string. Based on their previous Trek Challenge scores (which included milking a cow, taking a photo from the top of Cerro Bares and various mental riddles), the group were given staggered starting times to begin their escape.

Rachel & Anisha of Zulu 3 do Battle with the String Handcuffs

Free from the handcuffs, they raced their rafts to the pier and prepared for launch, Zulu 3 leading the pack. Despite being first in the water, Zulu 3 were overtaken by Zulu 1 who had taken the gamble to ditch the oil barrels for a lighter craft, a risk that paid dividends when they were first to reach the ship wreck and return triumphant to the pier. Their success was rewarded with some delicious fish at the BBQ later that evening.

The Winning Rafters - Zulu 1

Andrew & Caro return to harbour

After lunch, the teams moved back into their former Delta groups to undertake a review of their time with Raleigh, from Community Projects through trekking and their time on the island. These sessions are important in recognising the journey upon which each of us embark and through tears, smiles and laughter, we recounted the highs and lows, the challenges and the resolutions that each of us have made when we look forward to our post-Raleigh experiences.

A chillax on the pier post-Review afforded all the opportunity to soak up some final rays and for one last swim in the water before the group got ‘jungled up’ for our ‘Party in the Prison’. A barrel of mud was provided gratis by the ever-generous PMs for this purpose! Speeches were made and Maja’s fabulous photos displayed via the Slideshow. Ross recognised the outstanding contribution of the 5-week PMs who in turn paid tribute to his limitless enthusiasm, energy and commitment to Raleigh. A cross between Superman and Don Corleone (he never sleeps), his plethora of talents are matched only by his modesty, kindness and patience and we are privileged to have worked with him.

Venturers and PMs danced the night away in the cells to an eclectic mix of music courtesy of the ‘open ipod’ DJ policy, emerging blearily at 3:30am to take all kit down to the pier and jump in the boats to Punterenas as the sun rose.

We waved goodbye to San Lucas and whizzed back across the water to hop on board the buses for the airport. However as Hannah so wisely put - there are no goodyes, only see-you-soons!

We wish the 09G crew all the best, and every success and happiness in the future.

You made this expedition amazing.

Vegas Night Baby! 10 wk Changeover 2

The second changeover for the 10 week expedition was a fantastic experience. Everyone had a wonderful time when field base was converted into a special part of Las Vegas. Elvis made an appearance and a strange variety of gambling games were set up ... Raleigh style. There was Raleigh Snap, Raleigh Texas Hold'em, Blackjack, Raleigh Roulette and Human Spoons.

At changeover the expedition said goodbye to three of our host country participants and one of our project managers. Ale, Rebecca and Lucia after making a fantastic contribution to the second phase have departed to return to their university studies. Chloe, our mountain leader project manager has returned to her real life in the UK after demonstrating fantastic leadership on the Guanacaste treks. Thank you for your time girls, you were fantastic members of the expedition.

Elvis (Julian) says goodbye to Ale and Rebecca

Oli wishes Chloe well as she heads back to the UK after leading the Guanacaste trek twice
Will thought Vegas needed a dodgy policeman

Henry showed up to Vegas with pure style

Louise and Harry compete in Raleigh Snap

Zoe and Tess - all smiles

Phil celebrates a big win

Sarah models the Queen of Clubs in Raleigh Human Texas Hold'em - Oli seems perplexed to have been granted Queen status!

Guy the Ace

The night wouldn't have been complete without a human electric wave!

Monday, 24 August 2009

5-weekers 09G – Trekking update and adventure island

The first 5 days of the adventure challenge saw our hardcore venturers trekking 80km through the beautiful La Cangreja National Park, carrying all their own food and equipment in their 20kg backpacks. Highlights included watching the sunrise at Cerro Bares (a mere 1750m) at 0330am, crossing the Rio Candelaria, the incredible hospitality of the Costa Rican locals. Dona Trina, an 80-year old lady from Alto Potenciana, welcomed a group into her garden for the night, made everyone tea and coffee and leant cardigans to those who were chilly. Other night-time stopovers included a school, a church, several empty and a night with three American Peace Corps. The groups were accompanied throughout by two faithful stray dogs, Ricardo and Toucan, who moved between the delta groups and are now hanging out with the 10-weekers who have set up jungle camp in La Cangreja. A fabulous achievement by the 5-weeker – congrats.
From Mastatal the group travelled to Puntarenas where time-off included ‘hambaguesas, yucca chips and batidos chocolate’. From there the group enjoyed a 15-minute boat journey across the water to San Lucas Island, a maximum security prison up until 1991 and a nature reserve from 2001. Its chilling history is in no way reflected by its current tranquility and beauty with the exception of Ross’s midnight ghost tour. This incorporated the now-condemned main prison building, the cells with graffiti written in blood and the former ‘mediation chamber’ a small underground cell reached by a hole in the ground that reached inferno temperatures and from which one of the arguing parties would emerge alive.
Yesterday kicked off with a well-deserved chill-out morning on the beautiful Playa El Coco beach with a game of touch rugby and some serious sun-worshipping. In the afternoon we were reenergized by some project managers versus venturer Krypton Factor style challenges including tribal bonding customs, king of the swingers, multi-vine traverse and poison bomb disposal. We rounded off the day with a bonfire on the beach, some marshmallows toasted on pine sticks and a dance-off around the fire.
The Survival Challenge started in earnest at 0545 with the unsuspecting venturers being stormed in their cells by ‘Coronel Roscoe’ and his power-hungry guards. Dressed in menacing black, shades and bandanas, they dragged the poor venturers from the peaceful slumber, announcing these tiresome gringos were now their prisoners and only one team from three would earn their freedom. Three former raggedy and down-trodden prisoners of the colonel provided guidance on how to escape by watching for a break in guard-duty. As we write, the three Zulu groups are battling against each other by undertaking numerous challenges across the island. Armed only with water, a sleeping bag and Mossie net and their wits, they have already faced off against the crazy washer women who will swap grid references in return for the retrieval of their trinkets and the suicidal Siamese twins who require them to dive for bungee cords in exchange for lunch. Other challenges have introduced them to the Coco Beach pyromaniacs who have taught them essential fire-making skills, and the crossing of a minefield via a cantilever bridge.
The groups are now in three different locations across the island, building their jungle shelters, morse-coding their dinner requests and preparing for a night under the stars. All are well and happy and Maya will be uploading her fantastic photos shortly…

Beautiful San Lucas Island

Friday, 21 August 2009

The Final Phase Begins - Environmental Projects - 10wk expedition

Phase 3, the final phase, has begun.  After a wonderful changeover, the venturers have departed from Field Base with their new teams and new project managers for the environmental phase.  Alphas 1, 2 and 4 find themselves at the beach where they will be participating in a variety of projects from turtle habitat restoration and protection, reforestation tree planting, trail building and, of course, fun in the sun!  Alpha 3 are deep in the jungle where they will be constructing an amazing jungle camp and participating in trail building.  Alpha 3 will finish the phase with a couple days at the beach enjoying some sun and surf.

Alpha 1 - Playa Hermosa
Leading Alpha 1 at the beach are project managers Rachel and David.  They are joined by Tom Culverwell, Adrian Pilbream, Paul Milligan, Oli Halls, Charlie Knight, Michael Chiang, Louise McCallum, Bernardo Rodriguez Quiros, Jane Oladogba, Brandon George, and Matt Usherwood.

The beach at Playa Hermosa 

Olive Ridley turtles nest at Playa Hermosa

The aim is to plant 6000 trees at Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa - It could be worse!

Alpha 2 - Camaronal
Leading Alpha 2 at the beach are project managers Laura and Lisa.  They are joined by Oli Milward, Dawn Lee, Nacho Mora Barboza, Joel Rojas Salazar, Tessa Tracey, Robert Smith, Mike Raymond, Phil Maund, Matt Ambrose, Deven Natan, and Tina Paulo

5000 turtles nest at Camaronal each year

Camaronal turtle hatchery

Working on trails and tree planting

The beach at Camaronal - wish I was there too!

Alpha 3 - La Cangreja ... aka ... The Rumble in The Jungle
Leading the jungle crew are project managers Alex and Zoe.  They are joined by Henry Barnes, Shane Caffrey, Jake Pollock, Jonathan Gray, Adam Harvey-Cook, Karla Ugalde Watson, Vicky Lo, Patrick Brunton, Will Arnot, and Sam Chan.

La Cangreja National Park

The Rio Negro

Alpha 4 - Playa El Rey
Leading alpha 4 at the beach are project managers Carl and Gemma.  They are joined by Fee Pitman, Laura Dorrington, Ross McFarlane, Steven So, Harry Hughes, Fredy Rizo Olivas, Claire Wilson, Jasper Lee, Will Higham, Ben Maine, and Harry Coburn.

Playa El Rey

Playa El Rey - Location where the group may be building a new Ranger Station

Have a wonderful time guys.  The lonely duo at field base (Julian and Ben) wish we were out there with you all.  Lather up the sunscreen, take some great photos and try not to have too much fun!  More to come soon... -Ben