Saturday, 17 December 2011

The time has say goodbye

Wow fieldbase is quiet just now! Just the PMs and a few slightly lost looking venturers remain. Yes, ladies and gentlemen the awesome 10 weeks that was Expedition 11L has come to an end.

There were tears, laughter and heartfelt goodbyes this morning as the venturers boarded their buses to Nicaragua, the airport, and Puerto Viejo (the beach!). It has been an amazing experience for all concerned, lifelong friendships have been made, unforgettable experiences stored away, and blood sweat and tears put into every phase.

The venturers have been amazing putting their all into every challenge they face. Many have surprised themselves with what they’ve achieved, pushing themselves to their limits and beyond; be it tackling yet another steep climb on trek, digging the hundredth metre of trench on an environmental project or getting to know a Nicaraguan family when there is no common language.

Everyone on Expedition 11L can be extremely proud of their achievements both as individuals and as groups that have had a truly positive impact during their time here.

Our treks (Guanacaste, Turrisantos and Miratombo) have taken in some of the most stunning landscapes in Central America, in the South and North West of Costa Rica, and in Nicaragua. Trekking more than 270km over 19 days, the intrepid adventurers have met the challenge of pouring rain, blazing sunshine, steep climbs and long days on the road...and come out smiling.

Our environmental projects had an amazing impact across Costa Rica. In the stunning Cerro Chirripo national park, volunteers cleared over 1.5km of path, improving access for visitor. In La Cangreja, the groups dug over 300m of trenches in hard, rocky ground, and laid water pipes that will enable further improvement of facilities in the national park. Finally, in an ongoing and very valuable project at Playa Hermosa, volunteers gathered and saved thousands of turtle eggs as well as releasing hundreds of baby turtles into the sea.

We have run community projects in San Nicolás and Las Brisas in Achuapa and El Cebollal in Miraflor. In El Cebollal we built a youth centre, in 2 phases, that will provide young people in the community with somewhere to meet and will also help to grow eco-tourism in the area. In Achuapa, the volunteers built gravity waterfeed systems and wells that hugely improve access to clean water in those communities.

So it’s time to say goodbye folks. On a personal note, it’s been an amazing experience. From being lucky enough to go on the Guanacaste Trek with an amazing group of venturers in phase 1, to updating the blog, organising the magazine and getting to visit the groups in both Costa Rica and Nicragua. For each group I visited, I was always amazed at the enthusiasm on show, and how venturers and PMs coped with the challenging, unfamiliar circumstance they faced, A true inspiration to me for one, and, more importantly to each other.

Goodbye Expedition 11L and thanks for the memories.

Pura vida y Feliz navidad!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The final group blogs...

Zulu 1 final blog

6th December
Today we walked 12km, 10 of which were up hill, we passed many farms and coffee plantations in order to reach the electricity pylons where we had to camp(which was a first for all of us)!

On the 7th December we headed into the jungle and had to cross a precarious ‘Indiana Jones’ style bridge. Reaching our first peak ‘chunta’ 2582 m above sea level gave us extra motivation and after more muddy and unpredictable terrain we reached our next peak ‘Esperansa’ 2842m up. This was beautiful, as we were looking over the whole jungle. The community centre was already in use but we managed to stay in the back of a charcoal warehouse. On a good note, it was supposed to take 9 hours, and only took us 6!!

The 8th December was a very long day in terms of distance but all the walking was along a highway.

The 9th December was another very long tiring day but with some amazing scenery.  Despite being just one long track we had views of the Pacific and walked very high up. The campsite itself was great, high up in the hills we had to prepare for our tough day of climbing ‘The Dragon’.

On the 10th December we climbed the mountain known as ‘The Dragon’, the sun was out so the views at the top were the best we could have asked for. We passed two snakes called ‘mata’ (or as Bruce explained meaning ‘ox killer’) and an armadillo on our way up. Matt decided on the way down we would skip going back through the jungle and just climb down the face of the hill. This meant sliding down our backsides for most of us! We then continued to the destination of our next stop, a large wooden building that we soon found to be occupied by scorpions!!

The 11th December our travels took us to a river which because of the chemical reaction turned the water a green aqua colour. We didn’t complete the amount intended because the hills slowed us down so much. We were lucky enough to be taken in by a family who let us camp in their drive as struggled to find a suitable place to sleep!

On the 12th December, we had the final push to the beach. With a 3am wake up we had to trek the final 25km. This was a long never ending road, surrounded by palm trees eventually leading us to the main road. All of us were so excited when we finally got to the last stretch and could see the sea in the distance. We all threw off  our rucksacks and boots and ran into the sea fully clothed! What an amazing moment, everyone was so thrilled and congratulated each other. We had the beach to ourselves, surrounded by coconut trees and we celebrated with marshmallows on the bonfire.

What we have achieved: milestones accomplished
We walked from the Caribbean to the Pacific ocean,
We climbed Volcan Turrialba
We saw the Costa Rican monument
We climbed the Dragon Mountain
We all made it to Playa Palo Seco
All this by walking through jungle, clay tracks, main roads, national parks, gravel, mud, rain drenched farms and lots of different terrains.

Favourite moment of trek:
Sarah: “When we climbed to the top of Volcan Turrialba and the mist cleared, after we’d been walking in the rain all day, so we got to see all three craters in the beautiful sunshine and look down from above the clouds..amazing!!

Cristiany:’The very first day going through the jungle surrounded by all the wildlife and so many different types of trees’

Heading into the jungle.

Volcan Turrialba

Zulu 1 going strong...
....fuelled by energy bombs!

Zulu 2

Zulu 2 have now finished their trek in Nicaragua, taking in some amazing views, braving blisters, bites and sunburn to emerge triumphantly at our final destination with the magnificent scenery of Lake Asososca.
Throughout the trek, we stayed at a combination of schools, farms, community centres, and tents, relying on the kindness of the locals to guide and host us with somewhere to sleep for the night and they were always extremely helpful and friendly.

In the last few days we summited Volcan Cerro Negro and reached the top for sunrise. We all sat on the warm rock and admired the astonishing views from the edge of the crater.

Whilst the ascent took an hour or so, the way down was an exhilarating 2-minute sprint and Zulu 2 ran down Cerro Negro in a cascade of black sand.

Later that day we tackled another mountain to reach a picturesque campsite overlooking Volcan Miratombo and Lake Managua.

We finished on a high by running into the lake all holding hands with a necessary and well-deserved swim.
The trek was hard work and challenging at times but was hugely rewarding.

'I reckon it's this way!'

Just one of many stunning views
The group check the map again!
A brief stop off at El Cebollal...where Alpha and X-Ray groups built a community centre

Lake Asososca: the group's final destination

Cerro Negro - the descent

Zulu 3
We survived! Zulu 3 have finished their amazing jungle phase and are back a t fieldbase for a final few days. We managed to lay 218m of pipes and are now eagerly awaiting the cake that the PMs promised us if we reached 200m!! The rangers were also really pleased with our work and so made us a lovely celebratory dinner on the final night.

We all agree that this has been a really enjoyable phase with the highlights including dressing up with costumes made from our surroundings fro the ‘jungle rave’, swimming in the beautiful Rio Negro next to our camp, and eating the ingenious mess-tin cakes.

It has been a truly unique experience living and working in the jungle. We are all proud of the positive contribution that we have made to the park and have taken away many great memories. Pura vida!

The farewell meal

Jesus treat the group to empinadas.

The jungle rave!!!

Ally completes the Raleigh sign

 Zulu 4 final blog:

Life’s a beach!
Zulu 4 are still enjoying life at the beach, liberation was even more exciting for Jeanette and Gemma when they found 47 natural born turtles just hatched on the beach. With the help of Don Marco they were rescued from the driftwood and released with the other turtles.

After a week of hard work with the turtles and rangers along came a day off and a trip into the local town, Playa Hermosa.

After a 7km walk, it was time for an amazing lunch.

“The tuna steak was amazing, so fresh and tasty.” Hilmar relished in not having to eat re-fried beans and Daisy counted her strawberry milkshake as the best she’s ever had.

Tummies full, it was time for an afternoon stroll along the beach back to camp, where they were met by returnees Alice, Gemma and Jeanette.

A birthday weekend lay ahead of us! With energy bomb birthday cakes and homemade presents, Alice and Gemma celebrated quite possibly their best birthday yet. As night patrols were cancelled, we had a lot more time to spend on hatchery shifts and with the group. Lucky-oke with Bon Jovi and a Scottish Eminem (PM Julie!) performing and a very competitive Brainiac quiz definitely kept us entertained.

The last sunset and saying goodbye to the turtles and the rangers was a perfect ending to an amazing phase.

Birthday celebrations for Alice and Gemma

Skit practice!

A fond farewell to Playa Hermosa
Zulu 5
The final week in Las Brisas, Achuapa saw Zulu 5 working very hard to finish the water project. Two wels were made from scratch, two were improved, 15m3 of rocks were collected, trenches were dug and pipes were laid. This will benefit 26 families, almost 200 people in total.

Before this project a single person would walk at least 300m to collect water and carry it home but now they have water readily available in their homes. This will enable people in Las Brisas to spend more time on daily tasks.

“It was a great experience working with the locals and making a real difference in this community,” said venture Josue.

The venturers and the PMs formed a tight knit bond with the community and the families they stayed with. There was always something happening in the village where the locals and Raleigh volunteers interacted, be it a football match or a trip to the waterfall.
The time spent in Las Brisas has enabled those who speak Spanish to practice their speaking skills and those with limited Spanish to learn new words and phrases. The group even attended a Spanish lesson run by a local lady who gave her time voluntarily.
“The lessons were extremely useful and helped me interact with my family,” said venturer Jayne.

The final days of phase 3 were tough, especially in the scorching heat but Zulu 5 came together with blood, sweat and tears to complete the project. Community leader Don Eladio stated: “Raleigh has really made difference in this community. The family thoroughly enjoy having the volunteers staying in their homes.”

On the penultimate day, Zulu 5 were lead up a mountain by the some of the locals. They saw a spectacular view of Achuapa, a volcano and a beautiful sunset. The evening was spent singing songs, both Spanish and English, and playing guitar around the campfire. Early next morning the descended the mountain and returned home to pack and spend time with their families before their departure.

Zulu 5 then met at Don Adrian’s house to see the first tap turned on. “It made me realise that people would have more time now that the water was readily available in their own home,” said Jasper on seeing the tap turned on.

The last night in Las Brisas was spent partying! The locals organised a huge party, with a live band, a piñata, food and dancing. It was an unforgettable night.

Emotional goodbyes and gift exchanges between venturers, PMs and the residents of the village took place as Zulu 5 left Las Brisas.

The group take a well-earned rest

Spanish lessons

Hot work

Hi ho hi ho, it's off to work we go!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Festive fieldbase

As the Zulu groups are enjoying their last full day on phase – the Nicaraguan groups wending their way home, the environmental groups packing up camp and Zulu 1 sunning themselves on the beach – the fieldbase crew are feverishly preparing for their arrival.

And, quite rightly, we are getting in the festive spirit...decorations are going up, Christmas tunes are blaring out and presents are being wrapped. Most importantly though, the leaving party (festive-themed of course) is being prepared and what a party it’s going to be!

In amongst all that, reports are being written, award shortlists being drawn up, presentations prepared and, the all-important fieldbase skit being fine-tuned.

So with the groups returning tomorrow, I will leave you with some images of fieldbase’s preparations.

Presents ready and wrapped for children on a local indigenous reserve
A festive logs manager!
DPM Brie busy preparing for the Christmas party
Santa and her elves paid a visit to Playa Hermosa!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Zulu groups...the home stretch

Unbelievably the end of Expedition 11L is nigh, Wednesday will see the groups return to fieldbase for the final time as phase draws to an end. A few days of skits, awards, rafting and tearful goodbyes will follow but before then here’s a final update from the Zulus.

A quick reminder: Please do not send any more post from now on as it will not reach us before the venturers leave.

Zulu 1: After some 270km of trekking Zulu 1 are currently enjoying a well-earned rest at the beach at Palo Seco. Bodies are weary, feet are sore but spirits are high. Well done Zulu 1.

Zulu 2: Completed the Miratombo Trek in Nicaragua on Sunday and rested their weary bones at the stunning Lake Asososca. They have seen some amazing sights during their 250km trek and enjoyed some beautiful weather. Tuesday and Wednesday will see them continue to cover some impressive distances but this time by bus rather than foot.

Zulu 3: Continue to impress and amaze the rangers as they tackles set for them. They have dug over 220 metres of trench and laid the corresponding pipe. They were able to celebrate by turning on the first tap in the system. A truly awesome group!

Zulu 4: Have been continuing with their turtle patrols and work in the hatchery. They have also been doing great work around the rangers’ station. They also celebrated Alice’s birthday on Sunday with a fine energy bomb cake.

Zulu 5: Working across 4 project sites, the group have been making great progress improving wells, digging trenches, and laying pipes for water that will benefit many families in the community. They will begin their long journey back from Nicaragua on Tuesday,

So that’s almost ladies and gentlemen, all the groups are safe and well and enjoying their few days on phase. It will be an action-packed few days at fieldbase before they are homeward-bound.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

It's all go in the jungle with Zulu 3

We're sorry for the lack of blogs from Zulu 3 but here they are now with a Spanish blog from Jesus.

The Bravo 1 roadtrip was with the group on Thursday and Friday and they are all doing extremely well. Their pace and quality of work (over 200m of trench dug) has impressed the rangers. and when not working hard they are certainly playing hard as you will see in the blog.

Raleighando – En La Cangreja por Jesús y Millie

Son las 5.35am y es la hora de… Zulú 3. En la selva de Parque Nacional La Cangreja aun oscuro tres dormidos ventureros se levantan para preparar desayuno. Basta con hervir agua, agregar avena, dos docenas de azúcar, canela y leche y el tradicional porridge está listo. Amanece y los primeros rayos de luz atraviesan el fichaje del bosque, momento de iniciar la caminata cuesta arriba, hacia la casa de los guarda parques. Pico, pala y caratillo es lo necesario para continuar. Trabajando cavando la lanza de 70 centímetros de profundidad entre el recoso suelo.

El trabajo es arduo y pesado sin embargo el equipo ha logrado cavar más de 218 metros, colocar un grifo para beber agua, limpiar senderos y pintar algunos letreros.

Con el sol de mediodía, llega el momento de regresar al campamento para almorzar – pasteles de atún, empanadas de refried beans o soya, noodles con vegetales, panqueques y los ingenios queques mess tin de ken nunca antes vistos en Raleigh! A la hora de bañarse en el rio negro frese naturales jacuzzis y posas de limpia cristalina agua.

Por la tarde es común jugar el adictivo ‘monopoly Deal cards’, actividades planadas por Kelly, Vic y Ken como el ‘pop quiz’, ‘ready, steady, cook’, y ‘Raleigh Prison Break’. La navidad esta cerca y como es común en Holanda celebramos el día de San Nicolás (5 de diciembre) – Marette, Friso y Eleonore algunas confites y galletas de bajo del improvisado árbol de navidad hicieron memorable este día.

Por la noche el plan es irse de fiesta. El requisito para entrar a Zulú 3 discoteque es verter ropa hecha con hojas y naturaleza, algunas snacks, cinco queques de: limón, chocolate, marshmallows y jalea y una increíble fogata a guardan el Bar de la mono borracho.

No hay dude de que Raleigh ha sido una experiencia para nunca olvidar, a pesar del cansancio, mosquitos, ropa olorosa y trabajo arduo, basta salirse de la rutina de cada día, entrarse a la montana y probar de que estamos hechos y quienes verdaderamente somos. Atrás se quedaran los arboles, las aves, la lluvia, el rio y los momentos inolvidable para Zulú 3 en el increíble Parque Nacional La Cangreja.

Zulu 3 hard at work clocking up the metres!

Blogger Jesus cooking up a storm with PM Kelly

The Zulu 3 swimming pool
Home sweet home AKA Jungle Camp

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Spanish update from Zulu 4

Here's a Spanish blog from our Zulu 4 comms team in Playa Hermosa; Jahari and Jeanette.

Mientras todos dormían, las laboriosas Jeanette, Gemma y Molly salieron a trabajar...redactando huevos en una larga noche de patrulla; pero el trabajo duro fue recompensado con un exitoso encuentro de huevos de Tortugas negras.

Don Marcos realizo una interesante presentación para nosotros y aprendimos mucho sobre las diferentes especies de Tortugas y su conservación.

Todo puede pasar: el otro día algunos de los muchachos en su guardia encontraron una Tortuga albino, si eso dije una Tortuga albino... y como todo puede pasar ahora se llama Zulú… cuidamos mucha de ella o el...y ahora se está preparando para ser liberada e ir a casa en el océano.

Y el valiente Hilmar tomo a un cocodrilo por sus fauces y en una constante lucha tu a tu, fue capaz de dominar al cocodrilo... si y el valiente Hilmar salió victorioso con el cocodrilo en hombres… y el cocodrilo no medía 2m, ni 3m, ni 5m.. No. Medía 40cm!

Mientras tanto en el campo Jahari y Jeanette preparaban el mejor de los almuerzos que Zulú 4 había podido señor estas muchachas se mandaron con el almuerzo! Una riquísima sopa con todo; yuca, pasas, plátanos y lo principal noodles! Hasta el suertudo de Erick pudo disfrutar, de la riquísima sopa.

Zulú 4 esta completo y listo para el gran campeonato de voleibol que se realiza en Playa Hermosa... hagan sus apuestas! Porque Zulú 4 ya comenzó, cada día por la tarde tienen un duro entrenamiento y creo que cuentan con los mejores jugadores del mundo entero: Julie, David y Brian.

Trabajo, trabajo y más trabajo?! No, no, no. También se dan su escapaditas par ver todos juntos la puesta de sol.

Y a Don Marcos y Jhonny quienes se fueron hoy... que tristes son las despedidas y más aun cuando el adiós es a alguien tan especial...Siempre se les recordará y mil gracias por todo.

Playa Hermosa: home of the stunning sunset
Zulu 4 jungle camp...bashas all in one piece!
Hilmar's reptilian nemesis!

Zulu 4 hard at work in the hatchery...

.... and relaxing at home.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Zulu 5 Update by Sarah Church and Clare Jones

A free day for Zulu 5 began with breakfast with their families before all meeting at 7.30am. The group were guided by the locals a short walk down the cobbled pathways to a spectacular river and waterfall. A total length of 13 km, the river runs from Las Brisas into Achuapa. Zulu 5 enjoyed a day of swimming, sunbathing and interacting with the locals A clear blue sky and strong heat made the scene even more beautiful.
At midday the Venturers and PMs returned to their homes to eat lunch before participating in a friendly baseball game with all the locals.
“It was fun to mix and play with the locals” says Anna and Emma thought it was a ‘unique experience playing with the locals, both old and young!’
After baseball everyone joined in with the daily football match until sunset. The group were greeted by Fieldbase Ross, Randy, Tom and the newest member of Zulu 5, Duncan. The group sadly had to say goodbye to Owen, the PM, who has been awesome in Achuapa!
The family of Serena and Clare organised a fiesta in the evening in which everyone was invited: live music, home cooked food and dancing made it a special night in Las Brisas. Zulu 5 are enjoying forming bonds with their respective families and learning about their culture.
Fun days of socialising before a very busy week of work, as the group really want to finish all the projects that have been set.