Thursday, 15 April 2010

This is just the beginning...

Raleigh is not just about an expedition; it is about being part of a global community of like-minded people. People like you who want to do something extraordinary with their lives and really make a difference in the world. And so although your time in Costa Rica and Nicaragua is over, your journey with Raleigh is only just beginning! 

The Fourth Challenge...

The Fourth Challenge is to make a difference upon your return. During the expedition, you learnt many valuable skills that you can now use to make a positive impact in your community when you get home. 

Raleigh has a range of exciting volunteering opportunities in the UK and there is an Alumni Team at Head Office to support you in whatever you choose to do. You could:
  • Volunteer in your local community 
  • Join the Raleigh Youth Forum and help generate ideas about volunteering and be an active voice for the way Raleigh is run 
  • Be an Expedition Coordinator and help everyone from your expedition keep in contact
  • Help out at Raleigh events 
  • Tell people about your Raleigh experience at schools and universities, open days and careers fairs
  • Be an environmental volunteer  
  • Help with a local sports team or initiative 
  • Get involved with national campaigns 
Staying in touch

Whether you’ve got a question, photos or stories to share, or just want to say hi, please keep in touch as we’d love to hear from you. Visit the alumni section of the website where you can:
  • Keep in touch with your expedition friends and share memories and photos on the forums
  • Find out about Raleigh societies and volunteering opportunities
  • Register for the alumni newsletter 
You can contact the Alumni Team at or on +44 (0)20 7183 1290. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

We've come a long way baby...

Over the last three months we've been on quite a journey, haven't we. This blog was designed to bring you along for as much of the ride as we possible could - we've taken you up volcanoes and deep into the jungle; we've been welcomed into the humble homes of isolated Nicaraguan communities for a cup of sticky-sweet coffee; we've taken a peek at the lives of the indigenous people of Conte Burika; we've come face-to-face with turtles, taranatulas, puma and peccary pigs; we've experienced the highs and lows of trek; we've witnessed the chaos of changeover and we've sampled the delights of Raleigh rations - Pork&Beans, energy bombs and the ubiquitous, zingy joy of Tang!

This wouldn't have been possible without the help of many people. Here at Fieldbase, the Expedition support team work tirelessly to facilitate the activities and adventures that make such a big difference to both the participants and the project partners. Our team of driver, administrator, accountant, photographer and the fantastically organised logistics team, plus the management squad who organise us all, have done an incredible job, often working round the clock to make sure things run smoothly.

The Fieldbase team

Out in the field, our dedicated team of Volunteer Managers facilitate the three-week projects, translating, team-building, planning, negotiating, motivating, counselling and cajouling the Alpha, X-ray and Zulu teams. All these marvellous folk are volunteers, who also raised considerable funds to 'Get out there' on a Raleigh expedition.

We rely on a huge number of suppliers and friends, both here in Costa Rica and back in Blighty; top travel magazine Wanderlust Publications supplied maps and advice for our expedition publication. If you're planning your next adventure, Wanderlust magazine is packed with ideas, photos and practical information to get your itchy feet on the road again - check out there website

Thanks also to CATIE for providing us with support and our Fieldbase facility, the British community in Costa Rica, the wonderful Nicaraguan communities of Los Tololos, Caña Florida, El Terrero, El Cebollal and Las Palmas, and the indigenous community of Rio Alto Claro. The Cooperativa Juan Francisco Paz Silva, El Foro Miraflor, UCA Miraflor, MINAET, SINAC, the park rangers of Tapanti, Barbilla, La Cangreja, Camaronal, Golfito, San Lucas, La Amistad, Corcovado, Rincon de la Vieja, Volcan Tenorio, Santa Rosa and Playa Hermosa.

Special thanks also go to our suppliers and sponsors here in Turrialba: Farmacia La Salud #2, Arte 21, Karina Express, TransNica, Bogantes, Merayo, Rainforest World and Turrialba Laundry.

At a higher level, we'd also like to thank our Vice President Manfred Peters, The British Embassy, The Governments of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Lacle y Gutierrez, PWC and Dr Oscar Palma for his ongoing generosity and medical advice.

My final and perhaps biggest thank you is to the Venturers. Without them, Expedition 10B wouldn't have happened at all. They have supplied the grit and determination, the blood, sweat and tears (thankfully fairly minimal in the blood department), and the boundless energy and enthusiasm that has made our time in the last three months so incredibly special. Many of them will now be heading onwards to take on new, exciting challenges, and I can't wait to hear about them at the first 10B Raleigh reunion on the 22nd May.

Today, however, we turn off the Fieldbase radios, don our rucksacks once again and head off to explore some more of this incredible country. The blog will be dormant for a while - our next Costa Rica and Nicaragua expedition - 10F&G - kicks off in July so do check back then. Thank you again for your support, for your messages and for tuning in to our daily updates. Blogfollowers, it's been a pleasure. This is Blogger, signing off for the last time. Over, and out.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Final updates from Zulu's Two and Three

Phoebe Whitehouse describes the last few days of Zulu Two's Coast to Coast’s trek across Costa Rica...

Day 13 saw X-ray Three’s PM, Rich, take the reigns as Day Leader. It was an arduous day of highway trekking: primetime to experience wacky Costa Rican driving and pick up free watermelons from the sympathetic passersby. We stuffed our faces in a greasy spoon – fried chicken had never looked so beautiful after weeks of Raleigh rations!

The following day, Beth was a great leader. We spent an hour in a bar, getting bitten by parrots and trying to regenerate energy before the uphill slog. We reached our bleak, foggy destination at the base of Dragon Mountain shortly after a giggled-filled Tang fest. We woke in the night in our tents to hear a pack of wolves howling and tearing their victim apart – it was possibly the most terrifying moment ever!

Day 16 was Dragon Mountain – a tricky ascent rewarded with the most magnificent views. The vistas and landscape were just incredible, a true Coast to Coast highlight.

Day 17 was our final full trek day: a 25km day, led by the thrilling orator Hugh. He’s X-ray Three’s Obama-esque figure – his speech was reason enough to get up the mountain in the intense heat. We cheered at the top and sat dripping in our own sweat and grime in a café. We were given delicious watermelon – it felt akin to being given diamonds – we were that grateful! 12km later, we reached the community centre in Las Vegas, sipping Coca Cola with the fieldbase team and dreaming of our imminent lives without trek aches and blisters and the gorgeous beach that tomorrow will bring.

The triumphant Zulu Three trekkers

Further north, Zulu Two's Kris Stafford gives us an overview of the Guanacaste challenge in his official trek diary...

After spending the first two days warming up a gentle walk from Las Fortunas and through the jungle, Zulu Two stopped by Pizza Johns in Tejona to plan for the task in hand – fourteen more days of trekking – over a civilised pizza and coffee. The next few days were spent skirting the shores of Lake Arenal, tackling a few tricky river crossings whilst taking in the stunning views of the volcanic range – which occasionally peeked out from beneath the cloud cover.

By Day Five the team fancied a challenge so decided to make a few wrong turns adding to the 280km goal, whilst some of the boys took turns carrying two bags each up a six-km stretch to the ranger station, chivalrously taking the load off the blistered feet of Meryl and Kate.

We followed this up with a two-day stroll through the jungle with our guide Don Euelio leading the way, keeping us constantly informed on how much faster than the previous groups we were going, whilst looking out for any snakes and hazardous along the way.

After another day of trekking, Zulu Two decided they deserved another day off making a visit to Rincon hot springs before heading to Rincon Lodge where we managed to negotiate a couple of rooms to save breaking out the tents.

From then onwards the team stepped up the pace, earning themselves two days rest at the final destination, Playa Junquqillal - the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax and congratulate ourselves on being probably the best Raleigh trekking group ever.

And finally: Over and out - tomorrow, Expedition 10B draws to an end!

Corcovado National Park - final steps for Zulu One

When I boarded the plane bound for Costa Rica I pictured a lush, jungled land; uniformly green, brimming with wildlife and swelteringly hot. Instead, I found something of a melting pot of landscapes - cloudforests, dry forests, mangroves, ashen volcanoes, bustling cities and fields bursting with fresh produce. It wasn't until the end of Phase Three that I discovered the place that I had imagined back in January: deep in the tropical south, Corcovado National Park stretches across the Osa Peninsula, a pristine bastion of biodiversity that left me open-jawed and wide-eyed. For me, it was the absolute highlight of my time in Costa Rica - I saw more wildlife in three days than I've seen in any other place on earth, even miraculously stumbling across a female puma and her cub during an early morning stroll through the jungle.

To spend time in this haven is a privilege: Raleigh works closely with the national park authorities to maintain and improve facilities in these protected pockets and, in return, we are granted access permits to explore the incredible ecosystems within. During my six days with Zulu One, we skirted a coastline that was peppered with shark, crocodile and dolphin; we watched sunsets that ranged from deep golden to dusky pink to blood red; we swam in a crystal-clear rivers and slept in wooden-stilted ranger stations serrenaded by the sounds of the jungle at night. We saw tapir, four different kinds of monkey, anteater, sloth, agouti, spiders, snakes and dozens of insects and butterflies. The vegetation included root buttresses the size of buses, Ceiba trees that towered 100m above the jungle floor, strangler figs, giant palms and thousands more. It was a truely magical experience. With my limited photographic skills, I managed to capture a few of the highlights - click on the image below to take a look at the slideshow. A fantastic book called Osa: Where the rainforest meets the sea by Roy Toft and Trond Larsen (ISBN 978-0-9816028-2-0) does the place much better justice. If you can lay your hands on a copy, it's well worth a read.

Now I'll had over the reins to Dan Willis, one of the Zulu One trek team, who'll talk you through the nitty gritty of the last eight days as the team approached Corcovado.

Zulu One

Day 11: April Fools’ Day was appropriate for this day of the trek. The wise PMs had decided that today was our solo day (trekking without them) and that we were being left to our own devices. It was clear that we couldn’t live without them, however, as we bumped into them twice; once when we were heading in the wrong direction and we found them secretly watching us, and secondly when they overtook us in the jungle as we got lost. The previous night, the girls had hidden the boys’ boots, who in turn hid the girls’ shoelaces and placed a few rocks in their bags.And the pranks didn’t stop there: perhaps the best one being the toy scorpion Hugo placed in Claire’s boot.

After completing the nine-hour walk, our aim for today was to push on for two extra hours to reach Los Mogos where we could camp in a community centre. It also eased the pressure on our long walk the following day. After reaching the destination, we headed out to a local restaurant for supper; our meals included T-bone steak, fresh fish and Mexican chicken with crepes and ice cream for pudding.

Day 12: Today’s trek involved a 23km walk along the highway in the sweltering heat. The shimmering tarmac seemed to sap the energy and enthusiasm out of even the most excitable people. We eventually made it to the campsite after our longest day on trek just before a torrential rainstorm engulfed the area, but were treated to the luxury of a hot shower. Shortly after, Ross and Blogger arrived with our final food drop, and to join us for a few days trekking. The arrival of the Raleigh tuck shop and the distribution of personal messages and letters from Fieldbase instantly lifted everyone’s spirits.

Day 13: The day started well with a double-dose of energy bombs and, with Blogger’s seemingly endless enthusiasm, the group were ready and raring to go. Today was another 23km of highways, tracks, and never-ending corners but towards the end of the day we finally entered Corcovado National Park. The park had been the highlight on previous phases due to the incredible biodiversity – and we were all eager t o see the abundance of wildlife after a series of hard days on the road. But in order to get into the heart of the park, we crossed 23 rivers – yes, you did read that correctly – which meant that we all had very waterlogged boots by the time we arrived at the picturesque Los Patos ranger station. Blogger had bought along the ingredients for banoffee pie which went down rather well with the hungry trekkers.

Day 14: Our route card for the day said that we were in for a treat, so Zulu One awoke with great excitement and enthusiasm. We were told to keep our music off and voices down so not to disturb the wildlife, during the trek we saw several peccary (a wild boar), spider monkeys and heard howler monkeys. Throughout the day we were having a race of sorts against a group of American ecologists, after overtaking each other several times and their leader declaring they would beat us, we reached La Sirena Ranger Station before them to grab the prime sleeping location. An inspired group decision was made to add two sticks of salami to the macaroni and cheese for supper; our meal was further enhanced by an American couple who hadn’t finished their meal and gave us fresh salad, pasta, lettuce and watermelon. The comedy moment of the day happened when Mowgli (Juan Carlos a.k.a. “JC Junior”) was having a shower and sizeable gecko took it upon itself to excrete on his head, much to the amusement of several people who saw it happen.

Day 15: This was our rest day on the trek so we rewarded ourselves with a lie in until 8 a.m. due to the 14 hard days of trekking which we had just completed. For the majority of us this meant either catching up on sleep or heading down to the beach to top up our tans. But a select few decided to head back into the rainforest in search for more wildlife. Whilst on their walk they encountered pumas, tapirs, sharks, sting ray, various species of monkey, spiders, dart frogs, iguanas and toucans to name but a few. A few of us collected several coconuts to crack open and enjoy later. In an attempt to entertain ourselves back a the ranger station, we gave ourselves self-set challenges, including establishing whether Carla can fit in a rucksack liner: the answers is YES! And taking part in the crackers challenge whereby you a small pack of crackers as quickly as possible: JCB (our PM) won in just under a minute. Luke, Hugo and I then took on some Costa Ricans at a friendly game of football: we won 7-5 but it is fair to say none of us could have played for much longer.

Day 16: Sam gave us extra incentive to wake up and pack quickly this morning as she declared that the two slowest people would have to carry the rubbish we had accumulated over the last couple of days. The walk was along a beautiful coastal path and at times we were in a race against the tide in order to make our way around the headland. We made it to La Leona Ranger Station just before 2pm and made camp, we spent afternoon contemplating tomorrow’s 30km mission and decided upon an early bed time and an early wake up to help us complete it as quickly as possible.

Day 17: This is our final day of trek and also JC’s birthday giving us two reasons to celebrate upon reaching Bar Esperanza at the end of a 30km slog. We woke up at 3am and were walking just before 4am, the initial 4km was along the beach with only the moonlight to guide us; this was quite a surreal experience as we have become accustomed to walking in the baking midday Costa Rican sunshine. Our first break was after 90mins in which we had walked 5km, we stopped for energy bombs and to call Fieldbase for our daily comms check. It was here that we befriended an excitable yet soft Rottweiler which JC named ‘Beefy’, as he was built like a fridge. Beefy even attempted to follow us, but we were forced to leave him in our wake as we made our way to the beach with only the image of his puppy dog eyes to remember him by. The day seemed to fly by and soon enough we had passed the halfway point and it wasn’t long until a few of us were walking the final kilometer. There was a shared sense of utter elation and relief upon reaching our final destination. We had walked over 280km in 15 days of walking and were the first Corcovado trekking group this expedition to have gone the distance with the full compliment of personnel. We had supper in the local restaurant to celebrate JCB’s birthday and the completion of the trek; and as an extra bonus we are sleeping under the stars tonight with nothing but clear skies to look up to. Congratulations Zulu One… it’s been emotional.

I couldn't agree more Dan. Check back later as we deliver our final farewell message as Expedition 10B wraps up. Until then, this is Blogger, listening out.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The icing on the cake in Conte Burika

Anna Dawson and LK Forrest spent their final phase in the remote indigenous reserve of Conte Burika, putting the finishing touches to our school and constructing living quarters for the resident teacher plus a fantastic comidor (dining room) for the students. Here they report back on the grand opening ceremony...

‘Welcome to Conte Burika,
such a lovely place, such a lovely place.
Livin’ it up at Conte Burika,
anytime of year, you find the Guaymi here’

The red, white and blue ribbons have been cut and the school has officially been inaugurated ready for it’s opening next year. Many words were spoken both on behalf of the community and Raleigh as well as a performance of our Conte Burika version of Hotel California. The speeches recognised the hard work and efforts of everyone involved, as well as the close bonds formed between Raleigh and the Guaymi people despite the different cultures.

Today’s celebration with the community has really highlighted quite how much all the groups have achieved here. Over the past few days we have seen the completion of the teacher’s accomodation and a nueva cocina for the school – even we were a little overwhelmed at the speed of their construction. I think it remains to be seen whose building is better, but it is fair to say which ever project the girls were involved with ran smoother! While the boys made the finishing touches to the building and their roofs were put on, the girls did what they do best and plaited ropes for children living outside the school.

The Guaymi tortillas have led to many jokes and much excitement; especially when combined with the potent mix of caffeine and sugar addictions which many of us have indulged in. We have even gone as far as recreating the famous Costa Rican ‘Pops’ milkshakes…. Who’d have thought powdered milk, sugar and vanilla could compare!

I think the majority of us would agree that the best part of being is how well the community have welcomed us. Initially a little reserved and unsure, they have fully warmed to us being here. Not only do they play practical jokes on us, they enjoy laughing and our limited skills in the kitchen, but are always quick to lend a hand! On the days we have cooked, nearly everyone would have gone hungry had it not been for their help with the fire stove. We found it slightly different to turning the dials on our gas and electric hobs at home! The first of our favourite evening past-times is chilling outside a local Guaymi rancho entertaining them with the sound of guitar and song.…teaching them songs in both English and Spanish was not the easiest of tasks. The way the kids run up to you, hold your hands, climb on your back and play with your hair, along with the way the women massage your shoulders affectionately really emphasises how much a part of the family we have become.

Ed, Neil, Tom and Mike walked a six-hour round trip to complete in a local football league. They played for Deportivo Alto Rio Claro, and helped them to win the match 4-0... a stunning victory!

The much anticipated arrival of chocolate and messages (we mean the Fieldbase visit!) led to great joy and contentment. The sugar rush combined with yet more caffeine led to an awful rendition of Back Street Boys by three members of the group (can you guess who?) including the casual loss of a pair of shorts! The only other thing to add is how some members of Zulu Nine have visited the long drop more than others. While some barely know what it looks like having held on to their rice and beans for over two weeks, others have been so frequently they have even nicknamed the long drop Lucy and Derek.

This is Zulu Nine, this is Zulu Nine, saying goodbye for the last time from the incredible, inspiring and irrepressibly kind community of Conte Burika. Singing, dancing, teaching, learning, cutting, carrying, building, cooking, talking, listening, smiling, over and out.

Final reflections: ten weeks in Los Tololos by Alex Smith

Project Manager and translator Alex Smith spent three phases fronting up our community project in the sleepy village of Los Tololos. In today's blog, Alex reflects on day-to-day life in rural Nicaragua, and how it felt to switch on the taps after ten weeks to provide safe, clean drinking water to over 400 people.

Alex pictured here with Brigido, head of the local community cooportative

Life in Los Tololos normally began about 5am with the dawn chorus of roosters at 30 second intervals and the local dogs, reminding everyone that if the sun is up, you should be too. Once you’ve staggered out of bed or nearly fallen out of your hammock, Mum has thrust a cup of black, sweet coffee (better known as rocket fuel) into your hand and given you your packed breakfast of rice, beans and tortilla to take to work with you.

A typical Los Tololos breakfast

After trudging along to the pulperia and hoping that you’re not the last one to morning meeting (so to avoid the Day Leader’s punishment of press-ups), jobs are allocated and the working day begins. Being the only “cheles” or foreigners in the village, we became quite a sight in downtown Los Tololos, and people would always stop for a chat and discussion on the latest trench digging update or if anyone wanted any mangos or cashew nuts (for which the village is famous).

Daily trench digging

Once up at our worksite, discussions would begin in earnest. Arms would be waved, foreheads scratched and fingers pointed and about six people would try and talk at the same time in Spanglish. The art of talking with your hands became the most important form of communication and even as a translator, a shrug or a smile seemed to be worth a thousand words. Often some of our family members would come up and work with us, meaning that you could be easily upstaged by your eight year old brother wielding a pick axe whilst you are struggling to dig.

Lunch would then be the main focus on people’s minds as trench digging is hungry work. Once back at home, more rice and beans would be on the menu but we would get a chance to find out the latest news from the village and to be told off by our mum for not putting on enough sun cream. Tortilla-making class would then start, as you try and get your tortilla to look like a perfect circle, rather than a squidgy rectangle (I’m sad to say that after three phases, mine are still a work in progress!)

Joey helping 'mum' make the tortillas

Afternoon siestas became a popular activity with the post-lunch dash to secure your place in the hammock in order to have a little snooze. Often, there would be the pretence of learning Spanish vocabulary, or writing in a diary but really after about 30 seconds, people would be fast asleep or with half an eye open, secretly watching the Spanish soap operas beloved by all Nicaraguans.
School would then be on the agenda, as both English and Spanish classes were held in the local primary school. English classes were the more popular, with renditions of the “Hokey Cokey” and “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” to be heard around the village in broken English and the sight of Venturers and PM’s frantically trying to remember the words before class started. Spanish classes would be more an exercise in learning useful phrases such as “Please can I have that shovel?” and “Are there any more biscuits in the pulperia?” which would be accompanied by more arm waving.

Spanish lessons in the school

The local pulperia would then be the afternoon hot spot as a combination of a good gossip with the owner and a neon orange fizzy drink would be in order. Family trees would be explained, children played with and possible Nicaraguan marriage partners lined up. People would drop in for a chat, always intrigued about the project itself, and full of questions about life back in Europe. Often, a messenger would be sent to collect us as Mum had dinner on the table. We would take it in turns to collect water from our well for our showers, and then stand in awe as a full 25 litre bucket would be hoisted up onto someone´s head and carried with ease whilst we would have more water on us than in the jerry can!

Preparing for a shower!

Dinner would be eaten with the whole family watching us, Mum making sure we were eating enough, kids coming in and out between soap opera watching and animals wandering around our feet. It would then be time for bed, with us trying to work out where everyone would sleep and trying not to trip over baby chickens, piglets, parrots, puppies and kittens and to get ready to start a brand new day.

Alex and her Nicaraguan family

The project itself was a huge undertaking, but when I was allowed to turn on the tap for the first time in the back garden of a farm where I had walked past four times a day, on my way to and from the project site, I felt unbelievably privileged to be allowed to share such a defining moment in someone’s life. Having lived in Los Tololos for over nine weeks, our project has changed my life as much as the village itself as I was given a unique window into a very different world.

One of the taps in Los Tololos

Monday, 12 April 2010

Zulu Six - in pictures

Ready for your close-up?

Benoit Grogan-Avignon did an incredible job of recording Phase Three in the jungle project of Golfito - below we've picked out some of his top shots in this gorgeous Zulu Six photo essay...

Nitin Rishi reports back on three weeks in Nicaragua

Zulu Ten kicked off their Nicaraguan Easter celebrations (Semana Santa) reminiscing the long days of trek. We trekked from El Terrero to Las Palmas, the small community where we helped complete the rustic museum dedicated to Leonel Rugama, the revolutionary Nicaraguan poet. Living in El Terrero, and only travelling in the mornings to Las Palmas to work on the museum had unfortunately meant that we had not developed such a personal relationship with the community as we had done in El Terrero.

Spending the night in Las Palmas was pretty special for the whole group, it was amazing to see how sustainable and progressive this community was, and despite it’s proximity to El Terrero, things were very different. There is a lot of pride towards Leonel Rugama, arguably heightened by the fact that all the members of the community that we met were relatives of Rugama! That day came to a close with an amazing meal and Nicaraguan music around the fire.

Our next day in Las Palmas began with an eye opening episode. The community had offered to allow us to milk the cows, and we all accepted. Milking a cow is an interesting sensation… Anyway, after the milking, one of the cows tripped over because of the ropes that had been tied to its legs. After several attempts of trying to lift the cow, the community surrendered to the fact that it had broken its leg, and it was unlikely to heal. To our surprise their resolution to the problem was to kill and sell her for the meat. A pick up truck blasting salsa music soon arrived, and a gang of Nicaraguans armed with machetes and daggers arrived at the scene. Without hesitation the cow was stabbed in the neck and blood poured out of the writhing creature. They skinned it and began work to obtain their meat. A milking cow in the Miraflor region of Nicaragua costs in the region of $400 dollars, and they only get $200 for the meat. That’s a big financial loss for the community, not to mention the shortage of dairy that is to follow. There was a lot to take in, and for most of us, it was the first time we had seen an animal been killed. It’s so easy for us to get our meat on a plate, but as we saw the journey to get it there can be a lot more complex.

A trip to Esteli allowed us to see the contrast between rural Nicaragua and the city. Esteli is flooded with murals depicting the revolutions, and of course the local hero - Rugama. It was a pleasant change. It was back to work after the Easter celebrations and we finally began working on the highly anticipated community centre mural. Painting and plastering resulted in a pretty impressive centre.

Our time at El Terrero raced by, and when the time for us to return grew closer, we realized how settled we felt in this place that was initially so alien to us. Additionally, the importance of our presence in the village became clearer, and not just for the purpose of building the centre and museum. Many of the villagers have very routine lives in the villages, which means that our presence there gives them a change - basic English lessons, the games with the children, spending time with the families - it’s something different, both culturally and from a general perspective. It was such a unique experience, and sharing it with such an amazing group of people made it a very memorable phase.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Wash Up and the Golden Mess Tins

Welcome back blogfollowers - it's Sunday morning here in Costa Rica and this is a very special Sunday indeed. Today is the last Sunday of Raleigh Expedition 10B. Zulu groups returned to Fieldbase on Friday afternoon after a fantstic three weeks of water piping, mountain hiking, jungle camping and turtle tending. And what a final phase! It was as smooth as a buttered scone - our venturers took on the final challenges with much gusto, putting into practice all the new skills they've acquired in their ten weeks in the tropics. And now the end is in sight...

Well, almost. Before we pack up our mess tins, lock up the bodega and move on to pastures new, we've got a final few days of Raleighrelia and reflection - our 'Wash Up' weekend. First up, on Friday night we welcomed everyone home with a raucous evening of 'skits' - the end-of-phase summaries from each project, usually in the form of a short play, song or dance. Competition, as usual, was fierce...

Zulu Three's Coast-to-Coast cookery demonstration - 10B's biggest ever energy bomb

Zulu Ten's light and sound show

But the Phase Three winner was Zulu Seven's rap - congratulations to the Los Tololos team!

Beat box, backwards caps and bounce, bounce - it's Zulu Seven!

Bright and early the next morning and fuelled with porridge and jam, we tied up the expeditions administrational loose ends. There were questionnaires, reviews, forms and filing, and finally the venturers returned to their original Alpha groups to reflect on their Raleigh journey and catch up with old chums. In the afternoon, there was time for a bit of sporting activity with the PM v Venturer football match (youth triumphed over wisdom yet again, with a nine-seven win to the Venturers), and the consumption of lots of ice cream in our favourite sundae hotspot, POPS. Finally, we rounded off the day with the legendary Golden Mess Tin award ceremony and a fancy dress party... which went a little something like this:

The Dumbest Action by a PM/Venturer award: PM Dr Phil scooped the award for leaving his entire rucksack at Fieldbase as his bus left for Nicaragua

Richard (the Rucksack) gets carried away by Dr Phil

The Venturer Most Likely to be Hospitalised award: Ronnie Havens was a clear winner here - congratulations to our blonde bombshell who managed to stay out on phase for the first time, under the watchful eye of medic Joey in Los Tololos

Ronnie, hale and heart in Nicaragua

The Hardcore Trekker award: Although many folk strutted their stuff across the mountains of Cosa Rica, supertrekker PM Princess Tara was the unanimous winner here, completing two 300km treks in six weeks (without the aid of chocolate or Coca Cola). 
The Biggest Poser award: Fortunately there were no arguements over the winner here - people had already begun chanting his name before the envelope was even opened. Our Josh McWilliam certainly knows how to work the camera...

Tara and Josh proudly showing off their new medals

The 'I Survived' for those People who had a Brush with the Grim Reaper - and won! award: Anna Dawson clinched this trophy after dabbling in a spot of solitary confinement on San Lucas island.

Anna - San Lucas survivor

The Get Off the Radio award: Sadly, venturers barely got a look-in here in this VM-dominated battle - but there was a clear winner: Mr Oscar Saborío Romano for his extentive use of the our trusty HF comms.

Logs manager Sarah presents Oscar with his talking trophy

The Wikipedia award for Knowing the Most Irrelevant Information: Intellectual goldmine Rob Holt was the clear winner in this fact-tastic category.

Rainbow Rob's acceptance speach was rammed full of random trivia

The Lookalike award: We were blessed this expedition with many celebrity similarities, from Neil 'Frodo' McGregor to Ben 'Subo' Boyle. However it was Alexis 'Scooby' Leveque de Vilmorin who scooped the prize.

Scooby - dressed here as Scarface - collects his cartoon award

The Calling from Mars Space Cadet award: Our winner in this category - Paulien Koppius - had actually wandered off when her award was announced - in true Space Cadet style!

The Funny Man award: We were blessed to have a generous gaggle of comedians on Expedition 10B, but the funniest of them all was Scottish stand-up Ally Bhatia

It's all smiles as Simon gives Ally his medal 

Venturer Couple award: Somewhere amongst the mud, sleep deprivation, communal living and tropical humidity (and all the bactieria that accompanies it) people do fall in love on Raleigh expeditions. Our favourite 10B couple was Ollie Carmichael & Emu Pullan - stand by to purchase your hats people.

Oustanding Male & Female Venturer award: On a more serious note, every Raleigh expedition is packed with special people - some louder, some funnier, some who make a huge personal journey over the ten weeks, some who quietly absorb the experience and go on to do truely remarkable things. Sometimes there are those who go above and beyond what is asked of them to help, encourage, innovate, inspire, amuse and aid those around them. We would like to warmly congratulate both Rachel Stanley and Max Milward for their outstanding contributions to the expedition, and wish all our venturers the very best for the future.

Rachel (in purple) and Max (adorned in bags) collect the coveted 'Best of 10B' Golden Mess Tins

And finally: we'll be back tomorrow with more end-of-phase updates, my Corcovado trek tales plus the very last day of Expedition 10B. Until then, this is Blogger, listening out.