Saturday, 31 October 2009

Special 6 say Adios to El Zacaton

This is our last message from El Zacaton as we leave our families for the bus ride back tomorrow. It is pretty fair to say that ‘Special 6’ will be a hard act to follow as our fellow cement and blocks engineer Carlos was delighted with our fortnight’s work. The foundations are built, the four walls are up with bling bling windows and doors, and spirits are still high. Yesterday was also a special day as we all got to give a few local children and Carlos an English lesson whilst also attempting to mumble a few words of Spanish ourselves. Tanne took time out of singing the local cuisine ‘s praises to organize us into groups to teach greetings, names, numbers and body parts. Hardeep and Sandeep were delighted to perform ‘Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes’ in Spanish. The lesson was a lot of fun and really rewarding to hear the kids learning from us. The lesson however came to an abrupt end by a Hollywood rainstorm. Whilst this rinsed off the ants chilling on my sandaled feet it also washed away just about everything else not planted firmly in the ground and so everyone earned a round of man points for scarpering down the road towards shelter in action-packed seamlessly storyboarded chase frenzy.

Speaking of which today ‘Special 6’ plan to sand the rather rough edges off our skit with Guido enforcing a focused regime to produce something critics will later declare a masterpiece. Meanwhile we have also the art projects to collate as Sammy G and Vicky have completed their nifty flip books and Hamish has directed a particularly complex drama on his camera involving Ailsa and Emma as maverick women living on the edge. Shout out for Felix for his notably daring cameo.

I almost forgot a few things we have been up to the last few days. Special 6 divided into 3 subgroups to maximize efficiency. The groups revolved around a routine of planting nearly 4000 cabbages, clearing the local school garden and working on the project site. Each group also had an afternoon off chilling at the lagoon.

Overall the last 14 days at El Zacaton Miraflor have been one to remember and despite them not most necessarily being the easiest, they have most definitely paid off to a miraculous degree!
Happy Halloween boys and girls!

Yours faithfully
Sammy B.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Blog update from Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 Photos

Alpha 2
Blog insert by Gemma

Day 12: Alpha 2 reached the highest point of the trek today at 2800m – all downhill from now almost! Unfortunately, we finally got caught in the rain today whilst trekking – we have been so lucky so far. Everyone is going to enjoy a well deserved rest this afternoon and play some cards – mafia of course. Ashley says “Mundo” as always.

Day 13: Today was a very successful day, Alpha 2 trekked around 16km, all before 10:30am – we are so hardcore! Unfortunately this morning we had to say Adios to Joe´s beloved trekking pole which had many breakages and fixes but due to tragic circumstances can no longer continue with us. We enjoyed a cooked lunch in San Francisco which was a change from our beans and tuna – as much as we love them. The camp fire we had this evening made the whole 23km worth it.

Day 14: Today we made our way to the base of The Dragon and we caught our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean today which was very exciting. We also met with Bravo 1 and had an awesome dinner together – mac and cheese, noodles and black bean sauce and energy bombs have never tasted so good. Everyone settled in early for the night ready for the Dragon tomorrow. Even the coyotes howling didn´t curb our enthusiasm. Joe didn´t say “Oh my God” once.

Day 15: The day of the Dragon has arrived. Alpha 2 and Bravo 1 join forces and slayed the Dragon all in a mornings work. Celebrations included cocoa and energy bombs – of course- in true Raleigh style. The view was beautiful and Alpha 2´s spirits are higher than ever now the Pacific coast is in arms reach.

Alpha 2 in awe of 'The Dragon'

Reflecting on their journey

Ale, Guy and Rich

Noah and that beautiful view

The one and the only ' ALPHA 2'

Alpha 3

The Almighty Alpha 3

Christine and a wise ranger, teaching her tricks of the trade

Jake and Andreas having a good ol' dig

'Heave hoe'

Benita and Becca getting stuck in

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Photos from Alpha 5 and 6 and group roundup

Alpha 1,

Blog extract by Paula Lam

So what an adventure so far Alpha 1 have been having. The trek didn’t start too well for Drew as his rucksack failed within the first 3 hours of trekking but with handy gaffa tape and bungee cords the group held it together. The first night was spent in a church which housed more insects than the jungle itself! Norman screamed like a girl when a scorpion crawled from under his mat and another took full advantage of Sarah’s thermamat. This night was also the beginning of Sarah’s minor skin reactions – she is officially allergic to the whole of Nicaragua! Ollie, the enthusiast, has never understood the slow pace and always steams ahead but Paula – the designated bowl carrier – is officially the fastest ‘ turtle’ on the team plodding steadily on 10 metres behind him. Laurence never fails to entertain with his dodgy morning stretches in front of everyone and the Alpha males in the team have taken on the challenge of Annali’s rucksack (whenever a well needed rest from carrying was required). Laura has gone from refusing to drink tap water in the UK to drinking the earth water of Nicaragua and no matter how hard or challenging the trek gets Dani and Gabo’s advice on Tang always proves to be a godsend. Many team members have been plagued by blisters but Katie’s outshines them all, however, everyone’s feet (and sore limbs) were refreshed by a recent dip at the river. As for Sam, he is now supporting one small dreadlock alla Norman. After all these adventures the group still managed to find a surreal oasis on their trek – in the shape of a local man with his ice cream cart who appeared out of nowhere and help quench the parched mouths of Alpha 1 (as well as making himself a tidy profit)!
Alpha 2,

Still going strong have returned to the jungle. They have just left esperanza ranger station, morale is high and today they trekked a full 5k further than they had planned. This means, amazingly, that they are now ahead of schedule. Tomorrow they hit the Dragon!! More on that

Alpha 3,

Have finished cutting the path and have moved on to paving the path with gravel and drainage ditches.

Alpha 4,

Have been taking it easy today, working on their artwork and skit. They played a verturers Vs rangers at beach vollyball. We don't have the final scores but hoping the venturers won!

Alpha 5,

Blog extract by Riz Dasu

As I write, I am lying in a hammock surrounded by cows being milked and a hen nurturing her three baby chicks – all this whilst listening to a Spanish version of Shakira’s “She Wolf” on a local Nicaraguan radio station. It took us two days to reach La Calera (the village near Achuapa where we are working to build a water system for the local community). The first day saw us cross the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border (an experience!) and the second day was spent being driven through some of the most winding bumpy and inaccessible roads I have ever seen! Nevertheless upon arrival at Achuapa town – and after a brief juice stop at a local restaurant – we set off on a 7km hike to La Calera where we received an amazing welcome by the whole village and were introduced to the families we would be living with for the next couple of weeks. Although the living conditions are very basic and it is obvious the people lead a hard life (before arriving I couldn’t imagine going to a well every time I wanted water) their attitude is one to be envied. Everyone has a smile on their face, they’re always laughing and joking and the children are playing all the time.
We started the project by digging trenches – into which we would lay the pipes that connect all the houses to the water source. Initially the work was extremely hard and team morale fluctuated but with a little motivation from each other and with help from the incredibly hardworking locals, we are getting through the work with time to spare. We’ve spent our free time getting to know each other as well as the locals and on a few occasions we have played football and volleyball with them. The experience has been very challenging for the whole group but the work is both worthwhile and rewarding and a great time is being had by all!

Riz learns how to make tortillas

Cement to be - Alpha 5 get stuck in!

Cement to go - Riz, Charlotte and Claire help fill the wheelbarrow

Cement to be here already! Simon waits as foreman Chico prepares the ground

Alpha 6,

Blog extract by Sammy B,

Dear Civilisation we’re just arrived back in El Zacaton after our weekend trip. Yesterday morning our driver Ponchance played 80s power ballads all the way to Esteli baseball stadium. It was pretty stifling, but Felix didn’t let this get in the way of immediately forming an intimate companionship with a pimped out stranger there. It turns out that this shadowy figure was the one and only Pedro Ramos, who we learned was a MLB pitcher who played for the Yankees for over two years. We were star struck as he led us to the best seats in the house ( he owns the stadium) and asked us where we all came from. The match was fun to watch at first as we undertook the challenge of trying to understand the scoreboard. We were having a great time however we agreed to leave after the first six innings the prospect of another three hours failed in comparison to visiting an ice-cream shop. In the evening everyone went to phone home and check the football scores. Going to our hostel for a WARM shower and a meal! Yeah that’s right Alphas 1, 5 and special 6 had a room with flushing toilets! Whilst all day dreaming about the days events Felix got over excited and ordered two cheeseburgers for dinner, whilst Matt and Sarah had coffee cake. Afterwards we received message that Alpha 5 were claiming to have the biggest muscles of the two community projects. In response to this to show feable 5 their place by providing photographic evidence of the gun show. This is a warning signal to any Alpha group that attempts to out special us. The next morning we set off for a quick tour around a local cigar factory as Nicaragua is the 2nd biggest exporter in the world. It was pretty interesting seeing them produce nearly 20,000 a day. We then headed back to El Zacaton for another week of work in which we are given extra gardening and teaching responsibilities in the local school.

Getting stuck in!

Tanne mixing it up!

Is that Charlie in the middle? Dunno, but the 'special' 6 girls are certainly angels!

Bravo 1,

Are now back safe at field base, Ale, David, Rachel and Ross have left for their road trip visiting all Costa Rica Alpha groups, delivering mail, blog messages, nibbles. Service with a smile!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Stunning Photos from Alpha 1

Dry & dusty roads, unbelievably hospitable locals, flowing rivers, smoking volcanoes, random men on must be the Maribios Trek. Thanks to Dani and Laura for sending these to us at Field Base. There will definitely be shots of Alpha 5 & 6 up tomorrow.

Alpha 1 - Maribios Trek

At the base of Volcan Casita - that's Volcan San Cristobal in the background
Leaving San Cristobal behind

Looking after Andy's group mascot!

One of the many river crossings

A rare shot of Sam without his wooly hat!

Alpha 1 pool party

A rest at a pulperia to load up on cals

The most random ice cream man ever

0530 - so begins another day on the stunning Maribios Trek

The troops march on...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Photos from Alpha 3 and All Group Roundups

Alpha 1,

Have walked from Colonia Hermanos Garcia all the way to Santa Barbara. They had a very early start to ensure they didn’t get caught by the incredible midday heat! They did their initial 8km to Tonala in just under 2 hours - impressive!

Alpha 2,

Are smelling good, hanging laundry off rucksacks and wearing ‘deet’ as the perfume of choice. They are still going strong even through the rain and thunder. An hour conversation on food kept morale high with Joe’s expert egg cooking tips and Matt’s massive sandwiches! They are now at the highest point of the coast to coast trek (a whopping 2485 metres) however it is not the most dramatic of scenery...the peak is almost permanently shrouded in mist. Tonight they will be camped under an electrical pylon! Tomorrow they re-enter the dreaded jungle before sleeping in the relative luxury of La Esperanza ranger station.

Alpha 3,

Have been knuckling down and making great headway, the path will be complete in a couple of days. Everyone is in good spirits and jungle camp seems like a cross between Blue Peter and Art Attack for the Verturers, with Artist Becca getting busy on her side project. The park rangers and head ranger Don Bolivar or Donny B for short have welcomed all into the park brotherhood.

The beautiful jungle!

The Alpha 3 group low down…

ED is proclaiming to be gritty and street but his ghetto lingo is fooling no one, his face lights up like a child when he sees a steamy bowl of porridge ‘spoon me up’

BECCA has captured the hearts of many locals. The group artist has now branched out into interior design creating an enviable basha bed.

PUCK is keeping everyone working hard. She is also proving to be a good poker player.

CHAZ bursts into song frequently. It’s like Jungle Book the musical. A stage career seems set to follow.

BENITA the group psychologist is keeping us all in good spirits.

ALVIN managed to lose his glasses in the river, but luckily Benita found them. His misinterpretations of English are making for many a funny moment.

MARGARITA, Jiselle and Urania have become affectionately known as ‘las chicas’ . Magarita has been keeping a secret. She can actually speak really good English.

JISELLE’S hard work and kindness isn’t going unnoticed. She and the girls beautiful singing makes for lovely background music.

URANIA is improving her English all the time. Her and Andy’s love/hate relationship is worthy of any television sitcom.

DUDLEY Pants! (Nicely named, after a pair of pants washed and left to dry on rock were later lost to the wilderness and swept downstream!)

KEIR has become known as ‘John Travolta’ among the chicas, for his movie star good looks and blonde jungle quiff.

JAKE is made up after getting his hands on some sweet corn to boost his Raleigh Rations. The group are adjusting to his Scouse accent, but still require an interpreter occasionally.

ANDY has made group massage a popular past time. His soothing hands smooth away aches and pains from a hard day’s work.

CHRISTINE has become group interpreter, facilitating comms and mediating banter.

Alpha 4,


Alpha 5,

Had a trip into Achuapa for cold sodas and refreshments, tonight they are having their farewell party with the community of La Calera. The locals are thanking the group by doing a hog roast for them.

Alpha 6,

Are enjoying a day off in Esteli. They just called from the baseball game and being strangers to the sport it took them the whole game to figure out exactly which team they were meant to be cheering for.

Bravo 1,

After week of non-stop driving and bringing laughter, hilarity and Mars Bars to the groups they are having a well deserved evening in the beautiful beach resort of San Juan del Sur.


After another cracking ‘RADIO RALEIGH’ full of the latest gossip, football scores, world news and ‘HOT or NOT’. Ross, Raquelita and Clarita, Venturers, PMs and other staff alike are in full support of huge smiles!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Claire's Saturday Round-up

All group round up...things today's troops have been up too:

Alpha 1
After conquering Volcan Casita in north west Nicaragua they have continued to trek north west on to Colonia Hermano Garcia. They are trekking in crazy heat but morale is high and all are doing fantastically!

Alpha 2
Having reached and partied their way through the half way stage Alpha 2 are now trekking Gods!! Having been savaged by bullet mosquitoes in the jungle they are still going strong. They reached Purisil and have passed the 100km mark!!! Alpha 2 celebrated in style and their formal dress consisted of amazing bin liner creations including Guy as Freddie Mercury, Eric as Rambo and Cesar as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean complete with gaffa tape parrot thanks to Gemma and Cat! They have a tough day tomorrow but with 100km down and spirits high there's just no stopping them!

A view from one of the terrific hills climbed, waving goodbye to the beginning coast!

A well deserved break, reflecting on the journey!

Alpha 3
Have just received a delivery of materials for a mosaic which PM Artist extraordinaire Becca has designed, which will definitely get all their creative juices flowing!

Alpha 4..
Are on the beach - they have built loads of steps and are still going strong! Onwards and upwards towards the mirador looking on to the amazing views of the Gulf of Nicoya. The day and night shift have swapped so workers by day will now be watching and patrolling the beach for turtle egg poachers whilst poacher patrollers will be creating more amazing steps!

Alpha 5..
Have done an amazing job of completing their first project in La Calera, so tonight they have hiked up a nearby mountain to camp overnight. The sunset will be incredible.

Alpha 6...
Are way ahead of schedule! Go Special 6! The building of the third wall has now begun and the working environment has been full of fun activities. They had an epic name game with the community and have been all pumping and working on their muscles! The project partner from El Foro also popped in to give them a brief history lesson on the beautiful surrounding area.

The Road trips..
..are out on the road, visiting and climbing volcanoes with Alpha 1 and delivering a much needed new radio to Alpha 5, not to mention the sweets and tuck shop goodness they have been delivering to all venturers also!!

Rachel has been up to her eyeballs in the bodega sorting yummy food for Phase deux and safety checking all equipment! Ross has been in his one really knows what goes on in that Scottish paradise (following the football scores by live text - 'mon the Hibees! - Ed) but Raleigh Costa Rica and Nicaragua is still running smoothly. Clare has been 'manning up' and also using Ross' DVD collection (which has mainly chick flicks!) whilst putting to good use that design degree by redesigning the blog and magazine.

All in all a great day all round!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Photos from Alpha 5...& all groups round-up

Below we have some photos of Alpha 5 sent from Bravo 1 up in Nicaragua. The group have made incredible progess in the community of La good in fact that they have finished a week early! Tomorrow they will pack their bags, have a last meal with their host families and head off to the community of El Rodeito. The final three houses had their water connected this morning - an awesome achievement for everyone involved in the project.
The locals giving the group a lesson in how to mix cement
Dr. Sarah: "Wooooaaah....we did that!"

The Alpha 5 lads flexing their muscles - are you scared Alpha / Special 6?!

Is that a pineapple on Simon's head?

Radio time: "How do you work this again, Dania??"

And for the others:
Alpha 1 and Bravo 1 conquered Volcan Casita today and were gifted with incredible views of Volcan San Cristobal - the very active (but safe!) volcano only a few kilometres away.
Alpha 2 spent last night in Atirro and are now marching on to Purisil before ascending to the higherst point of their trek at Queveri. This is where they will cross the continental divide and will be able to see the Pacific in the far distance ahead of them. Tonight they celebrated with a 'halfway' party - black ties and nice skirts were created using Costa Rica's finest binbags.
Alpha 3 had a day off from the dirt and rain down in the jungle of La Cangreja. They went in to Pusical for some well deserved emailing and junk food...tomorrow it is back to digging!
Alpha 4 also had somewhat of a day off today - as they are working in shifts, they ceased work for the day while everyone caught up on sleep...but then woke up for a Nicaragua versus the rest of the world football game. Last night they moved no less than 900 eggs to the protected site.
Alpha 6 started work on the third wall of the community centre today and are loving being permanently muddy and wet in the rain.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Blog from Alpha 6 by Sam Broadley

Blogger Sam Broadley

Dear Civilisation

‘Special’ 6, as we are now known, has been pretty busy over the past few days having completely excavated the site for our community centre at El Zacaton, Miraflor. We are currently putting the other Alpha groups to shame with our supreme technique and knowledge by laying cement foundations ahead of schedule and having a whole lot of fun and banter while we´re at it. Our esteemed leader and master of all men, Don Javier, has praised us and left us to continue our work independently for the next few days as we power towards constructing our walls. The families accommodating us in El Zacaton are amazing, generous and happy to laugh in bemusement at our broken groaning sounds after a hard days work. There has already been a treasure chest of moments and quotes from the last few days. Just some of these include watching the amazing sunsets clash with lightning on the horizon every night without fail, and watching our very own Dr. Deep stumble blindly into a foundation hole. Tanne and Ailsa´s obsessive craving for chocolate was relieved this afternoon with the arrival of Field Base staff and most importantly, their mobile tuckshop. Hamish and I were delighted today to find out that ‘The Beast’ (one colossal terrifying behemoth of a pig) in our family´s back garden has been nominated for a forthcoming hog-roast party soon. Gringo Felix is mastering the art of snobby Castellano from Sarah while his roomie "El Otro" - A.K.A Carlos, A.K.A Hardeep - has excelled to become the Don´s apprentice. Emma has had the best seat in the house, cheer-leading for the team and crafting paintings of our gorgeous surroundings, while Aurelia has spent her spare time besotted with the local children and has already learnt all of their names. Matt ‘The Muscle’ "eh" spent his time lifting weights and picking up rocks mere men can only dream of (while acquiring quite the stubble for a potential handle bar). Vicky has successfully applied to be one of the Don´s Angels with her adept shovelling skills and Special 6 has recently begun writing a book of Sammy G´s quotes - including such genius as "we should have built the roof first so we wouldn´t get wet" and "why don´t they just build nice houses for everyone in the village".Our team just wouldn´t be the same without Princess Tara leading us with her heels and fabulous "Raleigh Laws". Last but not least is Guido who has just arrived for work today (lazy) but has already become an integral part of our finely tuned squad. Clearly there has already been countless lessons learned and moments to remember but this is Special 6 signing off to work another day and cherish another plate of rice and beans.
Yours faithfully,
Sammy B, Alpha 6, El Zacaton, Miraflor, 21-10-09

Just the one photo from Alpha 6 for now I'm afraid - Pedro did well to get this sent to us on a very weak internet link from a small town in Nicaragua. This is Sandeep (AKA Dr. Deep) and Hardeep (AKA Hardman) getting a lesson in woodwork from Don Javier.

Sorry for the delay, but we should definitely have photos from all groups within the next few days.

Thanks again for the comments - if you have sent a more personal message on the blog, don't worry it will be delivered...we've just kept it out of the public comments. If there are any comments you would like to be kept confidential just let us know.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Finally...Photos from Coast to Coast Trek

Alpha 2 Update from Venturer Claire Watson

Hello All
So what an adventure... I’ve been here a little over a week and already had some of the most memorable times of my life. The beastly start to the trek tested all of us but the views, smells and animals are out of this world. Unfortunately the aches and twinges of my knee, suffering from the vertical mixed terrain descent to today’s river crossing meant I’ve had to return to Field Base for a few days to let it heal. The physical and emotional support from both the Raleigh Project Managers and the strong bunch of characters in Alpha 2 perked me up no end – so it was hugs of ‘see you later’ not goodbyes as I will be returning to the group in a few days time as soon as they have passed the extremely remote Barbilla National Park. For now I’m resting up in the relative luxury of Field Base awaiting my return to the jungle and completion of Coast to Coast. Go Alpha 2!...I’ll be seeing you all very soon.

A few of the things from Alpha 2 that I’ll be missing:
Ashley’s motivational machine like attitude
Gemma’s impressive Spanish
Joe being Joe – ‘My camera even takes pictures of the ants’ faces!’
Cat with her high tech mountain climbing trekking poles, which I stole!
Happy banter between Noah, Thomas and Ashley...aaahhhh...young love!
Rich’s iPod – regualr plays of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ get us all going when the going gets tough.

Ashley the Machine!

The stunning and remote Barbilla National Park

Guy checking weight distribution after A2´s first food drop

Alpha 2 - ready for some harcore jungle action


Gemma ´Gemita´Armes

Alpha 2 Action Men Guy and Ricardo they go into the jungle. They will be spending the next two nights in indigenous reserves - the first in Guayabal the second in Valle Escondidio, befor coming out the other side at Bajo Pacuare.