Welcome to the official blog for Expedition 13A. We'll be keeping you posted on all the happenings of life on expedition from 10th January to 11th April. Check back and please send us your comments, it's free and easy. ¡Pura vida!
Calling all Alpha groups, calling all Alpha groups. This is Zero, this is Zero. Your time is up - phase one mission is complete! All trekking groups have reached their beach destinations after 300km of hard graft, jungle camps on our environmental sites have been packed up and fond farewells have been said to our wonderful communities after weeks of digging, shovelling, cementing, carrying and cultural exchange. The expedition is coming home... tonight we'll be welcoming everybody back to Fieldbase with a huge celebratory supper, soap and showers, cinema night and lots of catching up. The camping field is open, the tents are swept, the coffee is on. Hurry home 10B... we can't wait to see you!
The fieldbase limber up, ready to welcome Expedition 10B back...
Next: updates aplenty from all our returning Alpha Groups, plus find out what's happening in Phase Two!
Charlie gets stuck in on the Alpha Eight project site
The community centre is going up quickly now and it is really coming together. All four walls are going up fast and it’s getting very exciting. Over the past couple of days the groups have been spending time with their families, asking questions about their lives and work, and squeezing in the odd cooking lesson, as well as the daily milking of the cows.
Comida tipica: rice, beans, tortilla and salty cheese - your staple diet in Miraflor
Alpha Eight celebrated Valentine’s Day by designing their own anonymous cards using the famous Raleigh art box then picked up random ones and tried to guess who it was from. At the start of the week they visited another community that Raleigh has previously worked with to find out what ways it has affected them and what benefits it has brought. The week ended with a piñata party for a local boy, with lots of dancing done by all. Monday morning brought a visit from the Field Base team and a trek up a local mountain to see a coffee, banana and orange plantation. At the evening meeting Toby showed off his hypnosis skills by getting Roisin to forget her own name! For lent, Hannah has bravely decided to give up scratching her bites while Nick is giving up biting his nails... the rest of the team think they have given up enough already!
From wild horses to enormous spiders, Boa constrictors to incessant ants, curious crocs to temperamental turtles, it is fair to say that Alpha Five are enjoying a ‘wild’ time on Camaronal Beach.
After a sweaty bus journey followed by two nights under a temporary tarpaulin roof, we settled into our newly built jungle camp and felt immediately at home. At this point it is worth including a brief caveat: never trust weather men called Julian who claim that there is a less than 1% chance of rain – we did, and got rather wet!
The tumultuous downpours on the first couple of days may have dampened our sleeping bags (actually totally soaked them) but not our spirits as we proved that Rome can indeed be built in a day (or two) with the construction of a simply ‘pimped out’ jungle camp to rival them all. It must be said that it is rather disconcerting and blatantly annoying when Basher beds choose to break in the middle of the night but fortunately we have now rectified this.
Some may claim that every road leads to Rome but on Camaronal Beach, every path leads to jungle camp. This is because we have been brandishing machetes, swinging spades and raking furiously in an attempt to build the one and only path in the area. We have even managed to try our collective hand at building steps to great avail, so from a laborious point of view we have had a very successful week.
At night when the townsfolk are tucked up in bed the turtles come out to play. Apart from the fact that if we are honest, they are not really playful animals. The egg laying ritual goes something like this: they heave themselves up the beach at night heading towards a light source which seems to entice them. They then enter a trance, dig a hole, deliver their ping-pong ball-like eggs into the hole and then head off back down the beach and out to sea. To witness this natural phenomenon and then carefully dig up the eggs to prevent them from being taken by poachers is a privilege but there are many nights when you wander about in the darkness and nothing happens. Thankfully, Mother Nature distracts us with another display: the most stunning night sky, complete with shooting stars that any of us have ever seen.
One downside of living on the wild side is that Raleigh rations hold little excitability factor and we are able to predict every meal. Even so the ‘Pork & Beans’ have gone down surprising well, but I doubt we will still be so enthusiastic having consumed three crates of them during our ten weeks here. As a result one of our favourite pastimes is discussing the meals we are missing from back home. What we would give for a bacon butty or a diet coke right now! In fact crisps, biscuits, fizzy drinks, fruit juice, any kind of meat, oh and fruit and veg are what we crave. Maxi Bodega will record a huge rise in profits during changeover!
Valentine’s Day on Camaronal proved to be a steamy experience. An exchange of gifts was followed by romantic serenading (Tico style) under the canopy of a starlit sky. A magical night.
Everyone in Alpha Five undoubtedly agree that we are having an incredible time on Camaronal Beach. We have all pulled together to work hard and play hard and feel really rewarded as a result. Working with the turtles has been an unforgettable experience and the beauty and serenity of a mother laying her eggs under a starlit sky is a memory that will remain with us forever.
We got familiar with the floor – but it wasn’t our friend as our feet were sore.
We tried to savour every moment,
But it was hard as our BO smelt so potent.
Awesome Alpha Two!
Day Four: by Hannah Pitts
Today started tough, a burning morning slog around the rest of Lake Arenal. Water bottles ran dry and the grit road grew tiresome on feet. Spirits were lifted significantly when we discovered we were only a few minutes down the road from a supermarket. A two hour lunch break of fresh pineapple and biscuits was heaven! The afternoon was spent climbing hill after vertical hill. A navigational error meant half the group went the wrong way at one point, but just as dusk fell we reached our destination – a village nestled between the wind farms of Tejana with an inspiring view of everywhere we’d been so far. Tents, showers, dinner and sleep.
Day Five: by Neil McGregor As day leader I was eager to be up and away nice and early on the morning of day five, but after a long day the previous day a few members struggled to rise at the set time of 04:30. After a few loud bellows of my Scottish voice however the team sprang into action! After tidying up our campsite and having a quick porridge breakfast we headed off for another long day of trekking. We trekked up through the wind farms which was a little breezy I hasten to add! We then headed up to our jungle guide’s house for a ‘tasty’ pot noodle type lunch. After the luxurious setting of the guide’s house Alpha Two were once again reunited with the dusty gravel road towards the Ranger’s station. Our afternoon trek was host to some spectacular views of Lake Arenal and beyond. I made sure the group stopped plenty of times to take in the awesome views. We arrived at our destination early enough so that we even had time to sunbathe and look back at the road we had conquered. I enjoyed being team leader and had a lot of fun. Pura Vida!
Walking through wind farms
Día Siete: Por Ayeris Merlo Cuando me toco ser lider del dia, lo disfrute mucho. Me parecio una idea super genial e importante. Me senti grande al saber que ese dia yo tenia el control de todo, ni senti la caminata por que me tobaca decidir sobre si haciamos pausas o no, tambien decidia sobre el tiempo - cuanto estariamos en la pausa, tambien me toco esperar a mi companeros, los que se quedaban atras, algunas veces los dejaba pasa y depues continuaba. Fue muy bonito. Fue lo mejor que me ha pasado durante esta caminata y pues me siento feliz que pense que no lo haria bien, pero lo logre y nuestros guias me felicitaron y fue lo maximo. Espero poder volverlo hacer.
Day Eight – by Telisha Johnson Today was my day to take up the role of day leader, which I did with nervous anticipation. The first task was to allocate someone to have the map, and to pick two people to cook breakfast. Luckily by now many of us wanted to get used to map reading and there weren’t any disputes about whose turn it was to cook.
Everyone was feeling pretty good from the previous night spent at the ranger’s station where we had the luxury of our first shower in a week. We set off at 06:45 towards the town of Bijagua which took us 4 ½ hours including some tough hills, but we did well (and only went the wrong way once). The town itself was more developed than some of the other towns we had passed through and even had a bakery with really good pastries! After stopping for lunch, we decided to push on to a town called Zapote. It was hot and hard on the feet, but after getting past the mental challenge, it felt really good to lead the group. Keeping everyone in high spirits at the same time as keeping breaks short was difficult but we got to the town in good time and stayed together as a group. We worked as a team, all pulling our weight, so that any initial nervousness at being day leader soon disappeared.
The evening we spent in Zapote was one of the most amazing nights that I’ve had so far and very surreal. We turned up at a church to ask if there was anywhere to stay and it happened that we had wandered across some festivities. A local wedding was about to take place and the locals were kind enough to let us camp in the church after it was over. As we sat near the church watching the preparations some of us went to take a closer look and were then invited to the ceremony and reception. The church was a small room with simple decorations, blue benches and a modest altar. Half of the Alpha team piled into the back of the church and watched the ceremony from. Afterwards we were then invited next door to the and were given one of the best meals I’ve had over here, a dish of rice and beef piled high on the plate. For dessert we had something similar to rice pudding with pineapple. For me this was one of the best nights and topped off a challenging and rewarding day!
Dia Nueve: Por Nelson Castillo Fue un dia muy importante, por ser el lider, me toco coordinar el grupo, y con la ayuda de un guia local, porque ese dia fue en la Montana, no usamos el mapa por ser un dia nublado a travez de la Montana. Fue muy bonito salir del Rangers station, unas vistas muy impresionantes en la jungle, cruzar rios y quebradas despues pasamos por Rio Celeste, una laguna de agua color azul celeste. Subimos al mirador, luego atrevesar el bosque, por un sendero, con destino a la oficina del Parque National Tenorio. Un gran dia. Dormimos en una casa muy bonita.
Top teamwork on the tricky jungle sections
Day Ten: by Kit Stephenson
Well what a day! It started off with a bit of a shock, no Simon, wait a minute no Ale either, only a letter to explain that we had to trek to Colonia Blanca on our own – fun times! So we began the day a little worried but excited - today was a great opportunity for us to excel as a group. Our crafty PMs were in fact following us from a distance - but we didn't find that out until much later...
I personally think that it was our best day because the group worked well as a team and it brought us closer together. However there was also a great upset and blow to the team; we lost a great member Tom Smallwood, aka ‘The Tank’ - a guy who would give his utmost. Because of a recurring injury to his knee we unfortunately had to loose him. There were a lot of mixed emotions that day because it had been one of the best at the same time as being one of the worst. However, everybody pulled together as a group, acted extremely sensibly and really made an effort to keep morale high. Alpha Two what a great team!
Day 11: by Caroline Bixner
The day that I was day leader we only covered a short distance but at the start it was tough because it was so hilly. Intially I found it hard being the leader because I found it hard to decide when we should take a break and because I always seem to struggle with hills. But other than that I enjoyed being a day leader - it seems that by now we are working as a team and making joint decisions - so I didn’t have to!
Onwards and upwards... the Wedding Crashers trek on!
Next: an exciting Alpha Five update from the turtle team at Camaronal
Last week I zipped across to sunny Isla San Lucas with Logcita Sarah and Christine to see what the folk of Alpha Six were getting up to on our castaway prison island. And a fine reception we received too - a welcome banquet around their communal dinner table, a tour of the island, a spooky night camping in a prison cell plus an energetic beach Olympics event - which team Fieldbase lost comprehensively, in all events. As well as showcasing the best of their island paradise, they've been hard at work extending the island's ranger station - a monumental task starting with excavating and moving barrowloads sand from the eastern shore a kilometre across to the island's western shore, then mixing, laying and levelling cement to form the new ranger station floor, while battling the battalion of bugs, beetles and the baking hot sun... click on the slideshow below to see the sun-kissed, sand-blasted world of San Lucas island.
300km is a pretty sizable trek but on her way across the continent our free-thinking poet Roxsari wrote this insightful gem about a much longer journey. We've translated it below for those who don't yet hablo espangol...
La vida como un trek Todos los días para una persona deberían ser como un trek, no importa si se está triste, alegre, de malas, todo día tiene un camino que recorrer, una meta que lograr, con paisajes hermosos y no bellos, lo importante es disfrutar mientras se camina en la vida, sintiéndose orgulloso de lo que se ha caminado y logrado, siendo cada vez más fuerte, de mente y Corazón, al final del trek y de tu vida lo importante es haberlo terminado siendo profundamente feliz.
Life as a trek Everyday should be like a trek, it doesn’t matter if you’re sad, happy or in a bad mood. Every day you’ve got a way to go, a goal to achieve, against beautiful and not so beautiful landscapes. The most important thing is to enjoy life as you go. Be proud of what you’ve done and of your achievements. Feel yourself becoming progressively stronger, both in mind and soul. At the end of the trek, as at the end of your life, the most important thing is to feel incredibly happy.
Roxsari, poet of the peaks
We couldn't agree more Roxsari. But that's not all - here's another of her (as yet untitled) works, penned on the trail. Pura Vida Roxi!
Otro mosquito en mi frente
Y me pregunto cómo estará mi gente
Cada paso es más potente
Cada kilometro es esperanza .
Mi pie le suplica al otro
Para poder continuar,
En trek no es fácil caminar
Vamos! 2oo kilómetros mas .
Todos tenemos un sueno que alcanzar
Nos une una meta por llegar
Un camino largo, es verdad!
Pero al final todo será realidad
Cada kilometro es esperanza!
A lo lejos volteo hacia atrás
Que felicidad poder superar un día mas
Cada paso es mas fulgor
Cada gota de sudor te llena de valor .
Tus rodillas empiezan a flaquear
Tus compañeros te animan al caminar
En Raleigh todo es genial es especial
No te encuentras solo y eso vale más que todo
Tomorrow: hot off the press - the latest images from Isla San Lucas, our prison paradise...
On the final leg of our roadtrip, Bravo Three tootled down the road to the base of Cerro Dragon to find the intrepid Coast to Coast trekkers. Fresh from their summit climb of the Dragon Mountain, Alpha Three still had enough energy to get creative with the camera - check out the continent-crossing crew below as they go all Big Brother in this audio-visual extravaganza:
Next up: Coast to Coast trekker Roxi pens a poem about the greatest trek of all...
Bravo Three's wheels hardly touched the ground this weekend - laden with goodies from the legendary Raleigh Bodega, we tootled all around central Costa Rica dropping off food for our hungry hikers. On Sunday we caught up with the unstoppable Macho Bares trekkers Alpha Ten...
...who were overnighting in a small village after a tough day on the trail. With fourteen days down and four to go, the group reflected on their journey so far...
Now, blisters aside, there's few more miles to go for these tough-footed types. Since we left them the group tackled the mighty Cerro Bares mountain, successfully summiting at sunrise this morning. Now with only two more days pootling the final 40km down to the balmy shores of Punta Judas, no wonder super-trekker Becca is all smiles...
Next up: we drop in on Alpha Three on Day 15 of their Coast to Coast odyssey...
Waking up at 3am in a Nicaraguan school, Alpha Seven and Alpha Eight gave it a clean and loaded up our old American school bus with tools, bags and food. The caretaker of the school was very proud of his patch and we cleaned it three times before it was up to scratch! It was worth it though as it was a beautiful building.
Our four hour journey to Miraflor was to the soundtrack to the 80s and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to Alpha Seven and being greeted by members of the community who expressed their gratitude for Raleigh’s assistance by writing a song for us. Roughly translated it went something like this: 'These people have come to us with lots of goodwill and we hope that they are strong enough to work hard. They bring friendship from four countries around the world.' An hour long service in the church left us feeling very welcome indeed.
On Monday we were woken by the sound of chickens and pigs and we filled up on what was to become our usual meal – beans, rice and tortillas. Work began which consisted of clearing the site of trees and boulders to prepare it for laying the foundations. We were given a quick Spanish lesson to help us communicate with our families. Nikki thought twice about having a shower when a pig tried to eat her head torch and then tried to attack her! Aida and Charlie made a fantastic dessert which consisted of cornflakes, condensed milk and butter – delicious!
On Tuesday we continued clearing the site and at lunchtime we compared lunches since we all had been given various local dishes by our local host families. The last tree was removed in the afternoon so that we could begin laying the foundations the following day. (You’ll be glad to hear that for every tree that is removed another is planted to replace it). On Wednesday we had all eight of the concrete columns down by the time we packed up. In the afternoon Nikki, Max and Heather visited the local school to give an English lesson. In the evening we had an art session with Josh doing some sketching and then he and Nick serenaded us on the guitar.
On Thursday the steel reforming was created and Josh, Aida and Hannah went back to the school. The boys started mixing the cement which was exciting because we would soon be able to see the building taking shape. On Friday we had a lot of metal work to do, so we were all kept really busy and then in the evening we sang a personalised version of Amarillo to the community. On Saturday we had a lassoing lesson from Don Jairo and made Valentines Day cards to exchange the next day. All in all we’ve had an extremely interesting and exciting week in Cana Florida - bring on the next one!
Castaway project reporter Richelle Stacer taking notes at sunrise on Coco Beach
It’s now day twelve and Alpha Six has managed to survive on the deserted Isla San Lucas. We have used the supplies and tools we were given well and have successfully built a jungle camp right on the beach. The days pass quickly when they begin with a sunrise over the ocean and end with our dinner as a group around our table.
Our days are busy and filled with work activities and laughs. The main focus of our time here is our environmental project. We have been building a terrace for the Ranger’s Station so they have a place where they can hold meetings. Currently in the works are efforts to restore the prison and turn the island into more of a tourist destination. Giving the park rangers a place to hold meetings brings them one step closer to that goal.
Richelle, hard at work on the Alpha Six project site
The work is hard and the heat doesn’t help things. But we are only working half days and the gratefulness of the rangers certainly makes it all worthwhile. It will be very rewarding to see the finished project in the end and to know that we built it, with recycled materials no less!
Life on the island is pretty close to paradise. Although as I am writing this I am sitting through a vicious sand and wind storm... that may be the one down side to island life. We have explored some of the island and all the beautiful beaches it has to offer. Other activities that have been known to happen with Alpha 6 are karaoke, games night, beach Olympics and group diary writing sessions.
All of us are slowly accepting the fact that we will constantly be covered in sand no matter how hard you try to get it off and the bugs will never leave you alone regardless of how much DEET you spray on yourself. The rustling you hear at night is just thousands of hermit crabs going for their nightly scurry to the sea. Despite stories about the prison being haunted we have yet to have a run in with any ghosts, even after spending a night in one of the cells. But we still have 8 days left and you never know what could happen.
PM John, Blogger and Richelle signing off from Coco Beach...
And there's more -Alpha Six reveal their best moments on Isla San Lucas in this smashing video...
Macho by name Macho by nature – we started as we meant to go on by completing 17km on our first day ending at Barbilla Ranger Station where we were given a warm welcome.
The next couple of days were spent macheteing our way through the mighty jungle, wading through rivers, trudging through mud and avoiding poisonous snakes and frogs. We were rewarded with beautiful places to stay and the odd bucket shower.
On Day Five we woke to find that our PMs had sneaked off in the middle of the night. Slight panic ensued but after finding a note from them challenging us to beat them to that day’s destination we spent a great day bonding as a team.
Although we had an extra 4km to make up on Day Six, we covered the ground quickly, stopping for lunch on a football pitch and ending the day with a swim in a stream near our home for the night, a local community centre.
The following day as we were nearing the top of a steep hill we realised that we had somehow misplaced our maps but luckily managed to reacquaint ourselves with them 2km back. A long hot day, but the beautiful views and the arrival of Princess Macho who charmed us with her deep brown eyes and wet nose, more than made up for it. We stayed the night at a Pulperia (grocers /come meeting place) and took on the locals at a game of football.
Day eight was wet and miserable, but we still managed to reach our destination by a record-breaking 11:15 and put the world to rights by belting out some killer tunes under the electricity pylons.
Love was in the air on Valentine’s Day. The gorgeous PM Becca awoke to find that secret admirers had sculpted a beautiful heart from stones and leaves outside her tent. Try as it might, the rain couldn’t dampen our romantic spirit and we shared love-heart lollipops at the highest point of the trek and there were surprise gifts all round. The award for the most romantic went to big Dan who penned a song for Becca. The travelling Field Base team accompanied appropriately by Mr. Romantico himself, Special K, dropped by with a boot-full of chocolate which we swiftly devoured.
Today we have been walking along the Pan-American Highway attracting more than our fair share of attention including a certain Mr. Julian Oliver who happened to be driving by. Living up to our Macho reputation we helped pull a Ute out of a ditch, rewarding ourselves with hot chocolate and delicious Costa Rican coffee at Jack and Charlie’s café. We are staying in Cedral tonight and wonder what excitements the next 10 days will hold……………………
High spirits despite the rain
Did you really publish that message on the blog?
The most romantic man in Costa Rica drops by on Valentine's Day to give a hand to the ladies
Last week, intrepid Alpha One bused it down to southern Costa Rica to set out on their 20-day trek through the lush landscapes of Corcovado. As well as looking after the radio, tents, trangias, enough food for the first week and all manner of personal kit, they also had an extra bit of baggage for four days - and that was me, the Blogger. Not only did they tolerate me waving my camera at them on all the steep hills and quizzing them as they rustled up the evening's camp cuisine, but they shared their aches, pains, trials and triumphs. It was a real privilage to spend four days with the group - they are utterly smashing people and the days were packed with lots of laughter. Project Manager Emma and the group explain in their own words how they've risen to the challenge in week one of their 300-km adventure...
Over the last week, Alpha One has walked further than any of us have ever walked. We’ve trekked over two huge mountains and through two vast valleys in the last three days with the most amazing views. We’ve done eight river crossings – and four of us have fallen in. We’ve swum in hot springs and a swimming pool, and our ‘craics’ have never so been so high. We’ve learned that it’s important to manage our expectations, and then we always have amazing surprises.
We celebrated Ollie’s birthday, and started off the day with Ollie leading us all singing ‘Wonderwall’ while we trekked. We ended Ollie’s birthday with a food drop, the shop and a homemade banoffee pie cake. This was the day that we realised how important working as a team is.
We’ve had porridge, pork and beans almost every day, and we’re learning how important it is to love them! We love Diego’s wild fruit picks, we love Tang (a fruity energy drink powder) and we’ve found out how happy a sugary sweet at the top of a mountain can make you feel.
We’ve camped by rivers, we’ve slept in heavenly bunk beds and we’ve stayed in a field getting bitten by mosquitoes. We’ve also stayed in ranger stations, in a rodeo bull ring and ranchitos.
So much has happened: a tarantula fell on Oscar, Blogger got attacked by a thorn, and Ben hurt his ankle. Ollie and Catherine are competing for the most bitten/burnt legs. We’ve never sweated or smelled as much as we do now, we’re covered in mud, and we are all shattered – but very happy and all this only makes us stronger and prouder of our achievements. In fact, PM Oscar experienced his highest ever Raleigh high (and this is his third expedition!) when a local family generously helped the thirsty group, despite having virtually no water themselves. It seems like this trek brings out the best in everyone.
Alpha One is getting closer and closer and becoming an amazing team – Oscar, Emma and Ben are so proud of everyone.
Post script, added in different handwriting after Emma had finished:
...and the rest of Alpha One love Emma, Oscar and Ben - who are always there for them!
There is clearly a lot of love going on down in the tropical south. Check out the highs and lows in our Corcovado week one slide show:
Meanwhile, I'm writing this from the balmy shores of Puntarenas - my overnight stop en route to check the progress of Alpha Six on Isla San Lucas. The blog will be lovingly tended by Ross and Katie back at Fieldbase, who'll be keeping you up to date with all the latest news. Hasta luego, this is the Blogger, signing out.
A week has flown by on our Alpha 7 epic adventure. Despite the extreme heat, we have found a water source, dug awesome trenches and found exciting wildlife (iguanas and teripins) though we are not quite keeping up with our Nicaraguan friends as they manage to complete at least double our workload! We have enjoyed various games of charades with our families as we ask for essential items such as a bucket for the water hole as well as signaling smaller portions as we tuck into our third helping of rice and beans. Don´t worry, its not all hard work and no play as we teach our families cards in turn for tortilla cooking lessons. Perhaps the most memorable moment has to be Hugh´s enthusiastic piñata hitting, made all the more difficult (and funny), by the absence of a piñata during our welcome party!
Ruth puts her back into it
This trench will host the pipe to supply the community with clean, fresh water
Elizabeth and Jonathan talk to Field Base via HF radio
You just cant't beat a mattock when it comes to digging in the dry, Achuapan dirt!