Sunday, 31 October 2010

Bravo 1 returns from Nicaragua

The Bravo 1 Roadtrip has been out for the last ten days visiting our three projects up in Nicaragua and has now returned to Fieldbase with tales and photos from Alpha 1, Alpha 6 and Alpha 7. Sarah, Carl, Alex and Emma have covered 938km over the past ten days, using our off-road driving skills to get to our most remote projects. All to bring food to the trekkers, visitors and extra workers to the two Community projects and delivering eagerly anticipated post and blog messages to all.

Alpha 1 - Maribios Trek
We met up with the trekkers at a school in Colonia Santa Cruz, Nicaragua - right at the base of Volcan Casita. It was Steve's birthday, so a special 'cake' was improvised using the camping trangias and we celebrated in style until the late hour of 9pm (very late for trekkers who are usually tucked up in bed by 7pm!). We were up at 3am the following morning and climbed to the top of Volcan Casita (1383m) with the group to enjoy the spectacular views.

Since the Bravo 1 team left Alpha 1 they have continued to cover the miles and are currently on their final day of walking, heading towards their final destination - Mechapa beach, where they will enjoy a well earned day of rest.

Alpha 1 enjoying a rest at the top of Volcan Casita

The view from the top (when the cloud lifted)

The view from the top

Alpha 7 - El Rodeo
Next stop was Alpha 7 who are living in El Rodeo in Miraflor and are making great progress with their Community Centre. This project will take two phases to complete but this group have made a cracking start. They have levelled the ground, taking out lots of trees and rocks that were in the way, built the foundations and are now building the walls. Everyone is settled into their host families and enjoying being immersed in a totally different culture. Three meals a day are cooked by their new Nicaraguan 'Mums' and the whole group are getting very used to rice and beans! The group have split into smaller groups to ensure that everyone gets a chance to work on the Community Centre, so each day four people have a 'day off' and have been heading off trekking to explore the local area and enjoying the stunning views of the Miraflor Reserve. They have also been heading down to the local school to help teach English to the children - 'Heads, shoulders, knees and toes' was very popular!

Alpha 7 getting the blocks over to the worksite

Felix shows us how to do brickwork the Belgian way

 Gary teaching new games to the local children

This will soon be a wonderful Community Centre

Teaching English in the local school

Rachel and Erika building up the walls

Alpha 6 - Las Tablas
Finally we stopped off to visit Alpha 6 in Las Tablas, Achuapa. They have made fantastic progress with the new water system for the community. They have successfully capped the water source at the top of the hill and put in place two new tanks to ensure that the water is stored and a continuous supply will be delivered to the houses in the community below. They are now building up huge muscles with hours of trench digging in the heat - getting the pipes laid all the way down to the village. This project will also be finished by the next group in Phase 2, but Alpha 6 have worked super hard alongside the local community to get as much done as possible before the head back to Costa Rica. It was PM Pamela's birthday during our visit and she enjoyed a serenade at 4am from the local people and then a special party in the evening with most of the community showing up to celebrate with her. Alpha 6 are also loving living with their new Nicaraguan families and we suspect there will be tears on Tuesday when the time comes to say goodbye.

Alpha 6

Adri and Yali ready for work

Mixing cement to make the water tank

So Bravo 1 is safely back at Fieldbase, unpacked and the mud has been washed off ready for some more adventures in Phase 2. The Fieldbase team are now all working hard to get ready for Changeover and we're really looking forward to having everyone back for a few days of fun and catching up.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Expedition 10L Update

Hello there

All is well in CR&N and the groups are having a great time. Thank you for your hundreds of messages - for those of you worried that your comments aren't getting through, don't worry they are! Maryann has been printing them all and delivering them to the project sites. She will be out for the next 8 days visiting groups in Costa Rica while good old Bravo 1 is up seeing the groups is Nicaragua. As you can imagine, no one on the project sites has access to the internet or their emails so you won't hear from them until they get back at 'changeover' from the 3rd to the 6th of November. We are aware that we do not have any images from Alphas 1, 6 or 7 yet – apologies, we have a vehicle up there right now and hopefully they will be able to send us photos in a few days. Until then, here is a general round-up of what's going on in Raleigh Costa Rica & Nicaragua:

Alpha 1 - have passed the half way point! They successfully climbed Volcan Casita two days ago and are now in the sweltering hot wetlands of Puerto Morazon. The awesome Volcan Cosiguina is now in sight, while they pass the smoking Volcan San Cristobal on their left. A fantastic effort from all.

Alpha 2 - have also made it past the half way point. They had their 'half way party' while taking shelter in a local pulperia (shop) owner's back yard. They've had to deal with a lot of hills and rain, but the spirit in Alpha 2 is fantastic and they are soldiering on despite the weather. They are now on the Pacific side of the country, so I'm sure the coast ahead is motivating them to keep pushing on.

Alpha 3, 4 and 5 - see post before last.

Alpha 6 - have been digging, digging, digging... well, 3km of trench isn't going to dig itself! They are making great progress with their water project and have built the captation tank in addition to the graft. They are all living with host families in groups of two or three and are constantly grateful for the incredible hospitality they have been shown. Members of the team have been taking it in turn to teach English in the local school. For their 'day off' they walked up a big hill and spent the night there in order to see the incredible sunrise.... nice one Alpha Six.

Alpha 7 - have also made good use of their spades and mattocks, having dug out the foundations for their community centre. This also involved collecting lots of large rocks, sieving sand and mixing cement. Next, the breeze block walls will go up. To ensure that the work site isn't overcrowded, each day four members of the group stay away from the site and do a different activity, whether it is making tortillas with the family, working on the farm or teaching English in the local school.

We hope to have lots of photos soon...

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Update from Alpha 7 in El Rodeo, Miraflor

From Alpha 7's SITREP this morning:

Alpha 7 are now firmly established in El Rodeo despite swarms of ants, rain storms and a never ending supply of tortillas.

We are getting on great with the locals and they have been extremely hospitable.

After a week of hard work digging, mattocking and shovelling the foundations are now in place. We are now starting to build the walls, which involves shifting sand and mixing cement. PM, Don Pierro is our Health & Safety King and has coined the term "No glove, No love" to ensure correct PPE is used when on cement duty.

All in all, it's been a fantastic first week in Miraflor.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A whistle-stop to Alphas 3, 4 and 5

Hola to our loyal 10L blog followers! Bravo 3 is back from a muy rapido road trip and we have updates for you. Trust pix-man David has been keeping you well entertained and informed with his brilliant photos and recount of his stint with Alpha 2 -- a mighty resilient lot, I must say; parents, you should be very proud.

Ross, Alex, Roberto and I (Maryann) drove three and a half days westwards and across the Gulf of Nicoya to deliver supplies, say hi and just chill out with Alphas 3, 5, and 4. Everyone was in a cheerful mood, perhaps more so upon seeing the booty we brought with us; it's amazing how a little chocolate can do for people out in the wild. What impressed me was the enthusiasm and creativity the teams showed in making the most of their free time. Reminds us that, with a little resourcefulness, you don't actually need the trappings of modern living for amusement.

After spending their first two nights in the rangers' hut, Alpha 3 in La Cangreja have set up jungle camp close to a lovely river in which they swim every day. No worries about washing for them. The team were very proud of their living area which they laboured hard on. It's a pity we didn't have time to hike up to their camp to take some pictures this time, but we will do in our next visit. They've helped the rangers lay the foundations of the mirador, and are expecting to complete the project within this phase. When it rains they can't work on the mirador, but instead keep busy by planting trees in the vivero (nursery) for reforestation efforts. When I spoke to Project Manager, Laura Woodward on Wednesday she said the team had already planted 800 trees over two days.

Alpha 3 with the early stages of the mirador. La Cangreja (The Crab) in background
A new fool-proof rescue device
Alpha 5 appeared to be getting along famously by the time we got to Camaronal. Their jungle camp had been set up fairly well although they may need to work on their tarps. On the night we arrived it was warm and dry. They've worked out a rota for trail building during the day and turtle patrol between 2am and 5am, with time for camp duties, Spanish hour and English lessons in between. On turtle patrol that night were PM, Lou; Charlie, Hiten, Pablo and Caroline, joined by myself and Alex. As we were setting out to the beach, we couldn't believe our luck when Charlie came running to camp to tell us that there was a Leatherback turtle looking to lay her eggs. Classified as "Critically Endangered" and indeed considered locally extinct in some parts of the world, seeing a Leatherback was like hitting jackpot. Although she did not lay any eggs it was great to finally see such a magnificent creature in the flesh after only being able to read about them all this while. When turtles do lay their eggs, the team unearth and transfer them to a hatchery. Each turtle lays, on average a hundred eggs.

There she goes... Back into the big blue.

Bit too rough for a swim but really easy on the eyes
Pablo - chilling after turtle patrol


We said goodbye in the morning and headed off  to Puntarenas to load up on building materials for delivery to Alpha 4 on San Lucas Island. The group staged a cheeky welcome on prison island. Thumbs up for originality.

PMs held hostage by venturers. Ransom for release: 1 frisbee
Jungle camp has been nicely set up by the beach although some of their bashas still flood under heavy rain. In the event, those with wet beds spend a the night on the pier, which isn't a bad alternative.

A tranquil night on the pier

Work has begun on the visitor shelter and the team reported this morning that they have completed the fence for the ranger station. The team are slowly warming up  and getting to know each other better. On our visit, Delia and Kate organised a mini Raleigh-lympics made up of eight events -- shot putt, wheelbarrow race, sprint  relay, obstacle course, long jump, coconut tossing, human pyramid and beach volleyball. It was a couple of hours of intense fun and a great way to forget the heavy rain and vicious mosquitoes; indeed the best part of the road trip.

That's all I have for now. I'll be back on the road from tomorrow with David to see the teams again so we'll return with more updates and even better photos. Don't forget to leave your messages if you have any by tonight (Costa Rican time).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Phase 1 begins - On the road with Alpha 2 and The New Trek

The Venture Managers and Venturers spent all of Friday working with the logistics team preparing kit for the various projects - worksite tools, food and tents.

There was a massive amount to sort out and everyone was rewarded with a good feed for dinner and 'random night', which meant pulling out whatever you could find from the fancy dress box and arranging it upon ones self as badly as possible.

Saturday morning started bright and early with everyone up and about by 3am to start getting ready for their Phase 1 deployments. After making some breakfast and lunch sandwiches the busses arrived and the process of loading them up with the gear began.

The first to head off were the Nicaraguan based Alpha Groups (1,6 and 7) on their big Transnica bus.


After that each group left once they completed loading their busses and ensured that all were aboard.

I left with Alpha 2 and we were soon on our way (Sorry Sophie!)

A long day was ahead and much rest was needed...

We passed through Guacimo before turning south towards the Volcan Turrialba. Once our bus could go no further we were off on the official start of The New Trek!

We walked for a few kilometers before we arrived at our first river crossing. The heavy rain in the mountains had raised the volume of the river and we decided to camp overnight to wait and see if the level dropped.

Not everyone had trouble crossing however!

The bad news was delivered and we decided to camp a safe distance from the river for the night and hope for no rain.

The PMs were also looking for alternate routes a bit further up the river and came across a harmless False Coral Snake.

We set up camp, cooked some delicious macaroni cheese and got some sleep.

It absolutely poured with rain overnight and in the morning the river looked no better - if not worse. We headed back out of the jungle to the main road to head towards the alternate route.

We needed to head East to Babylonia before once again heading south towards Volcan Turrialba.

We arrived at the bus station at Guapiles and had some time to kill before the bus arrived. It was unknown at this point if the bus passing through here would be full or not - if it was it was another 1km to the main Bus station.

It was indeed full, but we were soon at the next station and on our way.

We stopped for lunch at a lovely spot on the side of the road...

We arrived in Babylonia, topped up our water and kept moving...

... and after a few more kilometers arrived at our destination - La Florida - where we set about trying to secure somewhere to set up our tents for the night.

After doing our coms for the day, we had secured offers of the local football field, complete with flushing toilets or the community center (once the party finished). These were both trumped, however, by the offer made by the amazing Solo who offered for us to overrun the entire downstairs of his lovely house, asking nothing in return.

A thankyou from everyone.

The next morning we were once again on our way, but no longer with Volcan Turrialba in our sights. The heavy river and detour left us with no choice but to go around the mountain and meet up with the intended route on the other side.

It was a big climb up the hill, but it was worth it in the end for the view of the sprawling lowlands out to the Caribbean sea.

Good work!

We weren't done yet though...

Another lovely lunch spot

And on our way again

We arrived then at Pascua and had to make a decision - did we make a massive detour to see Monumento Nacional Guayabo and then double back on ourselves to meet up with the initial route or take a more direct route and give ourselves a day in lieu?

The PMs left the day leader, Josh, and the group to nut it out and they soon came back with a decision - take the direct route and have a day spare. It was a tough decision to make as they had already missed the volcano climb, but they felt it was the best option. We were permitted to use the Pascua community center and had a great night after doing our coms.

The next morning was the most stunning sunrise I have ever seen in my life, bar none. I will let the pictures speak on my behalf.

We were then on our way, one again.

Another snake

We climbed a massive hill - in some places so steep that I was on my toes only. Once we all got up to the top there was a huge sense of relief and achievement, but it was very, very hot so we found some shade under a bus shelter and took a few minutes to recouperate.

We then headed down the other side of the hill towards the old unused railway lines which would hopefully get us quickly to our day 5 stop - 1 day early as planned.

The hill down was very steep and hurts already sore feet a lot, but everyone managed in the end and we met up with the old tracks where we stopped for water and some lunch.

Blue-Jeans Poison-Dart Frog


We met some unpassable areas but always managed to find a way to get around them, until finally we got to a point where we could not pass. There was massive dissapointment and dejection as we needed to backtrack all the way back up to the bus shelter - a hard walk.

It was a massive effort from everyone - I can honestly say I've never been so tired, but we made it back up to the top only to be greeted by Bravo 3 with the day 4 food and kit dropoff.

This was where I very sadly left the group (feeling more than a little guilty) after wishing everyone well and letting them know I would be seeing them again soon. On the drive back to fieldbase my heart dropped with every steep hill and I was very worried that they did not have enough light left to get to the next town - Sauce. I was beyond happy and really proud when I heard them call in to let us know that they had made it, becuase I had seen what they had dealt with in the previous four days and knew what a feat it was to get as far that day as they did.

I'd like to say thanks to Polly, Laurie and James for their excellent work as PMs and Adam, Ana, Amy, Ben, Calvagh, Cecilia, Corinne, Jan, Josh, Sophie, Tom and Victoria for your amazing company and just doing so well - not a single whinge the entire time. I can't wait to see you again for the Dragon and then hopefully at the finish line at the Pacific!