Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Zulu Four - Live from La Cangreja!

On Monday, Bravo Three headed deep into Costa Rica's green interior to find out exactly what's been happening at Camp La Cangreja. Fresh from a day trip to the waterfall, our reporter Beth Watts filled us in on the story so far:

Beth guides us round Zulu Four's environmental project basecamp

Zulu Four have arrived in La Cangreja in the depths of the jungle. We’ve all settled into our new home and have made the final finishing touches to camp. Everyone ‘pimped’ up their basher beds with extra features such as bedside tables, shelving units, ash trays, washing lines and candle holders.

Emma greets the Bravo Three team at the entrance to Zulu Three's jungle camp

Washing lines and basher bed shelving...

PM Alice shows off her cozy camp home

The kitchen and dining area was arranged by the girls whereas the boys’ priority was constructing a jungle gym. Dan and Diego are now frequently found pumping iron in there, whereas Alice’s yoga sessions in the newly-built yoga room prove more popular with the rest of the team.

In the fully-fitted camp kitchen...

...Laura turns her hand to a spot of porridge

7am - fueling up for a day working on the trail

Early risers can have a quick workout in the jungle gym

Beth teaches the boys a bit about balance

Before heading off to the worksite, PMs Sophie and Alice radio Fieldbase to give their plans for the day

The work has been going well: quick progress has been made along the 2km jungle path we were tasked with constructing by the rangers here. We start each morning at 7.30am and work until midday. It’s hard graft in the hot sun and humid forest but fun all the same – especially when the jungle is alive with so much amazing wildlife.

Emma heads off to work

Diego clears vegetation from the trail

The girls hard at work widening the path

Our afternoons are then our own – often started with a refreshing swim in the amazing river near our camp to wash away the morning’s sweat and mud.

We might grab an hour in the hammock after lunch to write our journals, learn some Spanish with Sophie in our daily classes or work on a camp project like the Phase Three skit, a video or some expedition art work.

In the evenings the night sky becomes alive with fireflies and, once the camp candles are lit, dinner is served under the stars.

The next morning, some of the Zulu crew volunteered to show us round their jungle camp:

It certainly looks like Zulu Four have plenty to keep them busy. We left the group early on Tuesday morning, already hard at work on the path. That day they chizelled out a 200 metre section that contoured round a steep hill high in the national park, from the ranger station lookout to a small creek.

The jungle trails at LaCangreja: Before... and after!

Today Zulu Four were planning to fashion some steps down to the creek to make the downhill path safe, before starting on the uphill section on the opposite bank. Pausing for a breather, pick-axe in hand, the views from this mirador path are jaw-droppingly good: to the left, a blanket of rainforest stretches out beneath the Zulu squad; to the right, the verdant slopes of Cerro La Cangreja (Crab Mountain) rise out of the early morning mist, silhouetted by the sunrise. Howler monkeys, toucans and paraquets provide a soundtrack to their labours and cool breezes tickle the jungle canopy at this refreshing altitude - as workplaces go, it's not half bad.

Zulu Four!

Up next: we catch up on Bravo One's progress in Nicaragua with round ups from our newbie environmental project Zulu Eight, plus Zulu's Seven and Ten

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Zulu Three: Coast to Coast capers...

With trekking groups Zulu One and Two looking after the North and South of Costa Rica, Zulu Three are responsible for East, West and anything in between. Crossing a continent is not to be underestimated, here's a quick update on what they've been up to so far and what the future holds.   

Zulu Three - Day Nine and still smiling

Starting on the Carribean Coast, Zulu Three eased themselves into their 250-kilometer journey on the flat banana growing plains north-east of Limon. A good opportunity to tune the rucsac and wake up lethargic legs before the terrain tilts towards the sky. By Day Four, our Coast-to-Coasters found themselves on the fringe of Barbilla National Park, and the lofty landscapes of the next few days loomed on the horizon. Did we mention that this particular park is infamous as the wettest region of Costa Rica, and that cloud-free days at this location are like hens teeth. Happily though, good fortune shines on the brave and after ascending 500 meters above sea level, Zulu Three were rewarded with a rare sight - clear blue skies, an amazing sunset and views of Volcan Turrialba lazily pluming smoke in the distance as they made an overnight stop at Barbilla ranger station. And it gets better: Bravo Three dropped in for a cup of tea, to deposit a few supplies and find out how the team were bearing up...

Tom talks us through the first few days on trek

Unphased by the challenges that lay ahead, the trekkers plumped for an early night before heading into the jungle for a few days - a highlight in any trekkers calender. We dropped in again on Day Eight with another bag of carbohydrates and got this update from young Mr Carmichael:

Ollie shows us round the overnight accommodation for Day Eight

Post jungle and still on form, Zulu Three seem to be taking this continent-crossing caper in their stride. Conveniently, their wanderings have also brought them a stones throw from Fieldbase this morning so, bored with twidling the radio buttons back at the ranch, we just couldn't resist popping out to see them at Atirro, and deliver a little surprise...

Zulu Three taking the weight off and enjoying a quick snack

PM Vanessa making use of Bravo Three to get in contact with Fieldbase

Colour coordinated PMs Simon and Ruth

So, today's the entertainment comes in the form of a pleasant 14km stroll from Atirro to Taus, handrailing the Rio Pejibaye. It's a hot one out there today so that River should come in handy along the way. And what of our special delivery? Well, with all those tales of fun and high-jinks coming in over the radio each night, Fieldbase have dispatched their photographic sleuth Ollie to capture first hand some of the action. The plan is to extract him during the next resupply visit in three days time at La Esperanza with an exclusive fifteen shot photo diary of life on trek. Watch this space!

Zulu Three hit the road with photographer Ollie onboard

And what does the future hold for Zulu Three as they near the halfway point of their journey? Continuing on a South Westerly bearing, they head towards the Provincial  border bewteen Cartago and San Jose. Along the way they'll skirt around the massive 2500m of Chonta and take on Cerro La Dragon with a ferocity that would make St George proud. The terrain will then mellow as they hit the coastal plains of Punteranas before arrivng at Playa Palo Seco to bathe their weary feet in the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. I think you'll agree - they will have earnt it! 
Up next: Tomorrow we drop in on Zulu Four's jungle camp in La Cangreja National Park

Monday, 29 March 2010

Zulu Two - update from the Guanacaste trekkers

On Saturday morning Bravo Three caught up with the Guanacaste trekkers, the hardy band who are hot-footing it across the scorching north of Costa Rica. Here they are at the end of Day Five of their 280km trek:

The trekkers began their journey at the foot of mighty Volcan Arenal, sensibly scampering away from the swirling mists and magma to skirt the shores of picturesque Lake Arenal as they trekked west. Rising from shore level up onto the blustery tops of the Cordillera de Guanacaste by day three, the team climbed past dozens of wind farms to reach Volcan Tenorio. And that's exactly where we caught up with them at a remote ranger station to drop off their food supplies for the next few days. The next morning despite the thick fog and biting wind James and Emma (Meryl) volunteered to share their thoughts on the journey so far... and the prospect of the next two days trekking through the Atlantic slope jungles of Volcan Tenorio national park.

But this was no time for idle chatter - seconds later Zulu Two waved us goodbye and disappeared into the mist, eager to discover what the jungle had in store. We jumped back in Bravo Three and raced ahead to deposit food sacks at two more ranger stations on their route...

Whatever gradients the Guanacaste group have in store over the next ten days, they will at least have full bellies - a feast of pork and beans, porridge, calorie-laden condensed milk, nuts, raisins, macaroni cheese and tomato-tuna-pasta waits for them in those bulging sacks. By now, the group will have completed their two-day jungle section and be spending tonight in the comfort of El Pilon ranger station - toasting marshmallows and swaping heroic stories with the rather curious scientists who use El Pilon as a research base. From these cosy log cabins, the terrain becomes rugged as they tackle another chunk of Costa Rica's volcanic north. Later this week, our other mobile unit - Bravo One - will be dropping in on the Guanacaste trekkers for a spot of volcano trekking as they attempt to summit lofty Rincon de la Vieja. Check back at the weekend for more from Zulu Two.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

X-ray Seis: the final installment of Roxs' jungle diary

Back in Phase Two, Spanish-speaking Roxs penned a fantastic diary of her time in Golfito, a tiny forest reserve on the edge of the Golfo Dulce. For those who speak a little Espangol, here's her account of X-ray Six's final days...

Día No.8

Eras una bella noche con la visita de miembros de Raleigh al campamento. Los chicos parten temprano a trabajar en compañía de Christine, Logger, Ollie y otros. Se comienza a hacer paso al sendero en medio de la jungla un poco densa, el sudor empieza a jugar en nuestros rostros pero esto es síntoma de trabajo duro y de orgullo para todos. Después de toda la mañana de arduo trabajo se regresa al campamento, para después del almuerzo caminan hasta la Catarata y ahí darnos un merecido baño que nos relaja totalmente. Al finalizar en la tarde, todos comentan sobre el día con un rico chocolate caliente.

Writer Roxs, far left

Día No.9
Día libre para el grupo y un día cargado de emociones que no se olvidará fácilmente. Se empieza despidiendo a los de FB muy temprano. El grupo parte rumbo a playa Cacao con muchas expectativas, se toma un autobús y luego un bote taxi. Esperando al bote taxi las bromas no pararon, eso demuestra que tan bien nos llevamos, cuando al fin abordamos al bote la felicidad era difícil de ocultar. La vista nos enamoro aun mas de Golfito. La playa llegando a la tierra firme fue sensacional!

Día No.10
Feliz Cumpleaños Kit! Al amanecer los dos Ticos del Grupo, Oscar y Roxsary, despertaron al cumpleañero con las mañanitas, este sin entender mucho respondió “gracias”. Este día se trabajo solo por la mañana, pues la tarde se la dedicamos al cumpleañero. En la noche todos nos reunimos a jugar con Kit un simulacro de quien quiere ser un millonario. La noche fue muy divertida y sobre todo muy Buena para nuestro compañero felicidades amigo.

Día No.12
Desayuno listo, grita nuestro PM y así comienza nuestro día. Hoy estamos muy motivados porque empezamos con la 2da parte del sendero. Hoy ha sido un día pesado de trabajo pero es concluido con mucha satisfacción. En la noche todos expresamos al compañero en la mesa lo importante que es para el grupo, fue como un fuego de motivación ya que en estas fechas de la expedición es normal extrañar a la familia. Algunos del grupo me pidieron que escribiera esto para los que nos esperan en casa: Familia y amigos, los extrañamos mucho pero estar en este lugar es lo mejor que ha pasado en nuestras vidas. Los queremos att., todos los chicos de X-Ray Seis.

Día No.14
Hoy es el día en que Dona Cecilia, la administradora del parque, supervise el labor realizado por el grupo y hace el recorrido por el sendero con los chicos. Al finalizar el camino, una sonrisa en su rostro expresa su agradecimiento “muy bien hecho, no se podía hacer mejor” expreso con la felicidad en sus ojos, la alegría inunda al grupo, pues cada uno se siente orgulloso de si mismo. En la tarde los guardaparques prepararon una presentación informativa al grupo sobre proyectos al futuro y sobre Golfito y sus áreas protegidas. Fue un gran día para todos.

Día No.15
El sendero puede ser visitado por los turistas sin el mas mínimo problema. Fue gratificante para todos ver que hoy llegaron a caminar por el sendero un grupo de 10 turistas, esto nos llena de un sentimiento que no tiene explicación solo se lleva en el corazón.

Día No.16
Día Libre! Visitamos ‘Las Cataratas La Lechería’, bañarse en ellas fue mas que espectacular, hoy caminamos como 14km parecido a un día de trek.

Día No.17

Hoy sin duda fue el día mas pesado de trabajo desde limpiar bambú, hasta ayudar a descargar una madera que se encontró cortada ilegalmente en el parque. Según los guardaparques, hoy el grupo dio lo mejor de si mismo. Termino el día con éxito.

Día No.18
El mejor día de todos en Golfito! En agradecimiento por el buen trabajo realizado por el grupo, el Parque nos regalo un tour. Nos levantamos temprano y tomamos un autobús hasta el Puerto de Golfito acompañado de Victor Hugo, uno de los guardaparques. Nos esperaban dos barcos, salimos a mar adentro, donde disfrutamos de la hermosa visita de peces como el atún y peces voladores y dos hermosos delfines! Fue una experiencia sensacional. Volvimos al puerto y caminos por los lindos senderos. Roxsari dice: Estoy orgullosa de lo bello que es mi país.

Dia No.19
X-Ray Seis se despide de Golfito. Hoy desarmamos el campamento y limpiamos todo para el siguiente grupo. El sendero ha sido terminado. Una mezcla de sentimientos rodea el grupo, bellos recuerdos quedan en nuestros mentes de esta fase. El proyecto a culminado pero no los lazos de amistad que se han creado en ella. Recordaremos esto para siempre, somos afortunados en ser parte de Raleigh 10B. Es una de las mejores expediciones de eso no hay duda.

Friday, 26 March 2010

First step on the Corcovado trek

Yesterday the long green tentacles of Expedition 10B stretched way down south as the Bravo Three team - myself and Ashley - set off on the first Phase Three roadtrip. Our first mission was to tackle the rugged tracks of La Amistad national park to restock the rucksacks of Zulu One. Two days before, the Corcovado trekkers began their journey in the tiny settlement of Progresso...

Day One presented fwe problems for this top team: they made light work of the 10km hike to Alturas, tackling a handful of river crossings before making an overnight camp in this remote rural village.

Carla and JC get busy in the camp kitchen

Bright and early on Day Two they russled up a fine breakfast of fried eggs before donning rucksacks and heading through the picturesque rural valleys of Coto Brus to reach Aguas Calientes. We caught up with them at the community Bull Ring where they were camping for the night. After dropping off their food supplies for the next five days and tucking in to a hearty supper of soya and rice (plus a tray of sticky bread and butter pudding that we'd brought along as a trekking treat) we snuggled up under the stars and caught up on their trekking tales. The next morning, as we bade them farewell, this is what they had to say for themselves:

So far, the trek has see-sawed up and down the mountain ridges of La Amistad national park, a UNESCO world heritage site packed with green peaks and glorious views. Having reached Pittier ranger station last night, the team now head into a dense jungle section for today's trek to Alta Mira ranger station - a tough but rewarding day with plenty of opportunity for spotting wildlife. Waiting for them at the ranger station tonight will be one of the treks most incredible views - a lofty campsite that gazes east over the national park. Tomorrow morning, along with their mess tins full of coffee and sticky energy bomb breakfasts, the sunrise should be rather special...  

Next up: we catch up with the Coast to Coast trekkers at Barbilla ranger station.

Snail mail

Greeting blogfollowers. A spot of admin today: while the splendid postal systems of Costa Rica have served us well over the last two months we have now reached the cut-off point for packets, parcels and postcards to reach us before the expedition ends in April. Please save your stamps and don't send any more items via snail mail as they simply won't get here before the teams head on to pastures new.
Don't worry though - the technological marvels of the t'interweb mean that you can send any messages to your nearest and dearest via this blog! Just pop your thoughts in the comments box below and we'll wizz them out to the projects sites next time the Bravo teams pay a visit. The whole expedition will be returning to Fieldbase on Friday 9th April - any blog messages that we have not been able to deliver during Phase Three will be handed over that weekend.
That's all for now.
Toot toot!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Zulu warriors!

This is Zero, this is Zero. Phase Three operations have begun. All Zulu groups have sucessfully deployed and have reached their Day One targets. Repeat: Zulu is all systems go. We need confirmation from all Zulu groups of your next assignments and personnel. Zulu One, do you copy? OVER.

Zulu OneThe Corcovado Trek (click on the project names to find out more). Deputy Expedition Leader Laura heads out for the first week of trek to join PMs Jenny and JC and their trekking team:

Alexis Leveque de Vilmorin, Carla Fernandez, Charley Vowles, Clare Davey, Dan Willis, Hugo Proffitt, Josh McWilliam, Juan Carlos Vargos Fuentes, Lucy Benville, Luke Sussams, Nicholas Ash and Sam Malvern.

Zulu Two: Tara and Dave are tackling The Guanacaste Trek joined by our ace administrator Annie for the first week plus this eagar squadron of hot-trotters:

New arrival Annabelle Acton-Bond plus David Tippett, Emma Darch, Isabella Somerset, James Ash, Katherine O'Hagan, Kris Stafford, Mark van der Noordaa, Maya Chilaeva, Michaela Turton, Tom Jeggo, Will Moody and Will Ross-Skinner

Zulu Three: Trek leaders Simon, Vanessa and Ruth have taken on the challenge of The Coast-to-Coast Trek with a band of brave ramblers. Crossing a continent with them in under twenty days are:

Adriana Keast, Aida Rodríguez Badilla, Ally Bhatia, Ben Braithwaite, Emma Van Selms, Hannah Johns, Henry Mills, James Keeble, Jennifer Shepherd, Jonathan Worthington, Ollie Carmichael and Tom McColm

Zulu Four: Heading to the jungles of La Cangreja national park to blaze new trails with dream-team duo Alice and Sophie are:
Annabel Johns, Beth Watts, Constance van Berckel, Dan King, Diego Aguilar, Emma Phillips, Hugh Cairns, Laura Wagner Veary, Nelson Castillo, Peter Crosbie and Roisin McMillan

Zulu Five: Joining PMs Elizabeth, Rich and Ale at Camaronal wildlife reserve to work alongside the turtle-topped beaches of Costa Rica's west coast are:

Aryeris Merlo, Caroline Bixner, Caroline Finnegan, Chris Woodfield, Francesca Hawes, Harriet Raper, James Forde, Javier Alvarez, Max Milward, Telisha Johnson and William Smyth-Osbourne

Zulu Six: Golfito forest reserve will be home Becca and Heather plus their team of jungle explorers. Paving new paths for disabled visitors to this bountiful biosphere are:

Alex Beard, Anne van Tets, Benoit Grogan Avignon, Beth Bowers, Daniela Flores Carpio, Erving Zepeda, Isabella J Vyvyan, Olllie Longworth, Rachel Stanley, Toby Morris and Urmi Mistry

Zulu Seven: Up in the Nicarguan village of Los Tololos, Alex, Emma and Joey will be working alongside the following fine folk in their quest for clean drinking water:

Amy Herbert, Charlie Hammond, Davinder Sanghera, Henry Lake, Hugo Wood, Isabel Pahud de Mortanges, Joe Talboys, Phoebe Whitehouse, Phoebe Walsh, Richelle Stacer, Samuel Becht and Veronie Havens

Zulu Eight: over in Miraflor wildlife reserve, the Nicaraguan village of El Cebollal will be home to Jude and Oscar for the next three weeks. They'll be joined by the trailblazers below to fix up paths in this fledgling wildlife park. Find out more about this new Environmental project later this week...

Alexander de Bois, Bryony James, Hannah Pitts, Helen Nuttall, James Lucas, Katherine Byrne, Lai Yin Wong, Nathan Denne, Olivia Douwes, Rob Holt and Suru Eruero

Zulu Nine: Heading south to the indigenous community of Conte Burika to construct supporting buildings for the fantastic new school with Sofi, Su and Mike are...

Anna Dawson, Kit Stephenson, Edward Abel Smith, James Wilderspin, Laura Forrest, Neil Grant, Nicoline Teeuwen, Paulien Koppius, Roxsari Quesada Diaz, Tom Smallwood and Yamuna Morton

Zulu Ten: the team at El Terrero and Las Palmas will be headed up by Phil, Christine and Katie. Joining them in Nicaragua to complete the community centre and museum are:

Daisy Wright, Dan Lawson, Ellis Bouw, Fabián Ramirez, Finn White-Thomson, Jess Gerry, Marijne Mak, Mark Ross, Natalya Chapman, Nitin Rishi, Olivia Boyd and Sophia Carr-Gomm

Back at Fieldbase, our two favourite Bravo teams are gearing up for their first roadtrips. At first light tomorrow Bravo One will head north to Nicaragua, where the lovely Logs manager Sarah and HCV/Project Co-ordinator Zoe will be dropping in on our community projects. Meanwhile, Bravo Three is currently being crammed with carbohydrates before Ash and I depart at dawn to resupply the trekking groups. We'll be bringing you news from our three intrepid treks later this week so check back soon for the latest Zulu group scoop.

Until then, this is Blogger, listening out.