Silence. In this case, isn't golden. Our Alpha venturers have flown the fieldbase nest. Mess tins swing limply in the wind. Birds still sing sweetly in the trees but their sound is somehow muted.
It's hard to believe that 10 weeks have flown by and our amazing Alphas have now finished the 11C expedition. But we've waved them off on their buses to San José, knowing that lifelong friendships have been made and treasuring magical memories.
So, it's with sadness but an immense sense of pride that we bring you the final ever word from our 11C Alphas...
Alpha Yankee 1
By Amy Ratcliff
Since Day 6 Alpha Yankee 1 has been through a lot, we’ve had some long tough eventful days but we made it through to the end. Day 9, Laguna Vueltas to Santa Lucia, is the day that stands out for most of us and the day that is continually referred back to. Early on in the day Jo had to leave because her knee was hurting. Organising getting her out added a three hour wait onto a day that already promised to be long and difficult. We set off in the heat and knew that a 1 km vertical climb awaited us. To say it was a long day is an understatement. What followed were moments of getting lost, scrambling up very steep hills and taking on the jungle. Thankfully Jo rejoined us three days later.
Corcovado National Park was a definite highlight of the trek when we reached it towards the end. It didn’t disappoint, a noticeably different climate from the other National Parks, filled with wildlife that when we were quiet enough we were able to see. Spider monkeys, brightly coloured parrots and deadly snakes to name a few. An unfortunate incident where a member of the group sat on a hornets nest had the group running through a section of the jungle to escape.
We were quite unlucky with the weather for the last few days, the dry season turned out to be not so dry. One night whilst camping at a ranger station, our tent inners and outer filled with muddy water and we had to flee into a small wooden room in the ranger station to shelter from the storm. Something changed as we moved along the coast and for our last day of walking and day off on the beach we had clear blue skies and bright sunshine. It made us appreciate finishing all that more. A couple at our final destination allowed us to camp in their back garden and use their facilities. Once again, like many times during trek, we were amazed by the kindness and warmth of local people. Our final beach was idyllic. We all spent a few hours there as a group, swimming in the sea and desperately trying to get rid of our t-shirt, shorts and boots tan line. Whilst swimming half the group were stung by jellyfish but even that didn’t detract from a restful relaxed last day or our group meal at a nearby restaurant – a final break from trek food!
Alpha Yankee 2
By Ed Smart
With only three days left until the beautiful beach of Playa Junquillal, Alpha Yankee 2 leave the community centre of Quebrada Grande in high spirits, which might also have been due to the fantastic Mac and Cheese dinner the night before, as well as the morale-boosting banana we had with our porridge. The ascent to Cerro Cacao ranger station from the town is steep and unrelenting, however occasional glimpses of the Pacific to the west keep our feet moving and we are treated to the breathtaking expanse that is the Cacao plateau. For many of the group this moment was one of the main highlights of the trek, the transition from baron hillside to lush green grass and striking stand alone trees was so immediate and absolute that the incredible diversity of Costa Rica really hit home. It was then that we realised how privileged we were to be there.
After the plateau we plunge into the rainforest yet again, and come across the ranger station soon after. From which we can see our final destination, many miles away yet, but all the same, being able to see the finish really highlighted how far we had come. We unfortunately were not able to reach the summit of Cerro Cacao, as we encountered a Terciopelo snake, who wasn’t too keen on sharing the trail with us so we backed away and left on our final jungle trek to the Maritza ranger station. We left our final camp at 4am to complete our 30 km final leg. The day was long, but we knew with every step we were approaching the destination we had been working towards for the past 17 days. After many kilometres, blisters and hours of walking, we round the final corner to the welcoming white sand and blue waters of the beach. As one, we take the final step onto the sand, before we sprint to the waves, shedding our boots and packs before we launch ourselves into the water.
No words can describe the sense of achievement the group felt after those final steps, after all the blood, sweat, tears (and various other bodily fluids), we had all made it, as a group of 14, through all the highs and lows of what will certainly be some of the hardest but most memorable weeks of our lives.
Alpha Yankee 3
By Freya Lemon
With just one evening remaining of our final phase we are now preparing to say goodbye to the jungle. But we’ll be doing so with heavy hearts...it’s been an exciting few weeks for Alpha Yankee 3 in Braulio Carrillo National Park.
After making ourselves at home in our very own jungle camp, we were met by our host ranger, the eternally upbeat Tenorio.
As our task was explained to us (starting where our predecessors finished, we were to gravel 320m of footpath leading through the rainforest) we realised that a tough two weeks lay ahead of us.
But through torrential downpours we walked, carrying what felt like our bodyweight in gravel along that increasingly familiar and seemingly endless footpath and...WE DID IT!!
But whilst the job in hand brought us here, it’s been everything else that’s made this experience one we’ll never forget. From our daily dips at our very own private waterfall, to celebrating Gembob’s birthday Alpha Yankee 3 style (with an 80s themed party, energy bombs and a delicious chocolate fudge brownie cake courtesy of PM Roberto of course)!
We can now relax knowing that we’ve conquered the jungle, forming lifelong friendships along the way...and it turns out it doesn’t always rain in the rainforest!
Alpha Yankee 4
In the final days of our amazing project in Miraflor, we finished the beautiful path by gravelling the whole way until the end!! (yes, it was hard work). It was such a rewarding feeling putting down the last sack of gravel, you can’t even imagine how excited we were!
Now, more about our “community experience”, we got to teach very useful words such as “wallop” and memorable songs like ”poppity ping” to the local school children and had a couple of trips to Estelí, going in a really crowded and loud bus!! (because of some crazy Raleigh people).
There is no doubt we had a great time! But, saying good bye to our families was the hardest part, with a couple of tears, we left Zacaton leaving parts of our hearts in each house.
What another great experience of Raleigh life. It's coming to the end, it's coming to the end, but what we are sure of is the fact that, we will take all of the memories with us and relive the good moments.
…Y como dice la canción…“Conoche como vienen los de la 11C”!!
Alpha Yankee 5
By Harry Fellows and Chich
A long and emotional journey it has been, from when it all started three weeks ago meeting our new families. When we started working on the waterholes, we never thought that we’d get as far as we have. From flat ground to holes to craters that plummet beyond the eye can see, the team pulled through together to conquer San Marquena with pick-axe and shovel.
Blood, sweat, tears and laughter have been shed by individuals. As muscles bulked and skin browned in the intense heat, we carried on with the work, got deeper with the holes and found ourselves moving onto other projects. We moved down the village and started to build a water tank at a spring. Trenches were dug and pipes were laid and eventually we managed to fit four taps to houses in the lower part of the community.
Our relationships with the locals developed in such ways that some ventures really found it hard to say goodbye. On the last night speeches were made, songs were sung, tears were cried and long-lasting friends and memories were created. We felt really appreciated within the community and hated the fact that the bus journey back was inevitable.
The experience over the last three weeks has been an eye opener. We've realised just how lucky we are at home, with our access to resources. The memories the group gained from our experience in San Marquena will live with everyone in A.Y.5 forever.
On behalf of A.Y.5 we’d just like to thank everyone involved in the expedition for giving us all a truly amazing and memorable time. Final piece out from A-Town x
Alpha Yankee 6
By Camilla O’Connell
Now that Alpha Yankee 6 are all reunited back at fieldbase we have been reflecting on all the great times we had in Alto Coen. Ben and Wellard were particularly thankful that the trek and journey out of the reserve was surprisingly smooth, speedy, and hitch free – a first for us!
Other highlights included Max, Andy, Fab, and Anita playing a number of high speed football matches as part of the Alto Coen football team. Fab and Anita in the girls’ team won their match and even more importantly Max and Andy’s team reached the final, though sadly didn’t take home the champions’ title.
The ‘Raleigh Olympics’ devised by Wellard and Ben was a great way to pass the time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. After a number of different games, including the ‘rock and spoon’, ‘wheelbarrow’, and ‘obstacle’ races, Anita, Chris, and Lucia made up the winning team and accepted a much anticipated prize of some Haribo sweets – a real luxury after a staple diet of rice and beans!
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to finish the project, though it was amazing to see parts of the roof being constructed and realising just how much wood we had carried through the jungle to the worksite.
However, having returned to normality at fieldbase, and after gorging on banana splits at Pops, we all agreed that what made Alpha Yankee 6 the best phase ever was the group itself. After all the highs and lows throughout the phase, Alpha Yankee 6 remained a solid team from start to finish.
Alpha Yankee Six Rules!
And now all that remains is to leave you with our famous 11C expedition song which locals can be heard throughout many of the communities we've worked in, and will be hummed and sung by the 11C expedition for many years to come...