Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Updates from the Trekkies!

Jack Smylie-Wild for X-Ray 1, Turrimacho Trek:

Hi everyone and anyone who is dropping by to check on the progress, happiness and health of their sons, daughters, friends and partners who make up the cross-country-Costa Rica-mountain-topping, playa-seeking, grubby clan named X-Ray 1.

So, where to start? The time that passed so far on this trek has assumed that strange quality of seeming far longer than 12 days whilst those same days also seem to have flown by. We now have walked about 143km and the last four days have been particularly difficult: long days, never-ending ascents, tents in the rain, freezing nights at 2500m. The luck we've been blessed with today then feels all the better. We were due to camp again after a 23km walk, but somehow the roadtrip guys from the fieldbase team, who caught up with us today in their 4x4 for a food-drop, managed to find us a rather luxurious wooden cabin in a typical Costa Rican village called San Francisco at an altitude of 2000m. When the clouds clear we can catch a glimpse, a glimmer of the Pacific in the distance! Not far to go now. We arrive at Palo Seco, the beach, on Friday - day 16. None of us can wait, but we're all going to make the most of our journey before we reach our destination, for a weekend of frisbee, sleeping, swimming, chilling... enjoying being still! We're really looking forward to seeing you all very soon! Pura Vida x

Meeting the roadtrip... food and
messages from home

Cookies courtesy of Joanna :)

Kelly...  dayleader extraordinaire

It's not a tent! Luxury accommodation in San Francisco

Diary time

Sorting latest fooddrop for next few days trek

Stretching in more ways than one...
Bert preparing the daily sitrep back to fieldbase

*Photos by Cathy Titterton*

Abi Ramanan for X-Ray 2, Miratombo Trek:

Pulperia girls aside, X-Ray 2 have been enjoying a diverse trekking experience. I'm sure that you won't believe that we're not biased but this really is the best trek; travelling between different communities has been hugely interesting, not to mention great for improving our Spanglish. 

Day 7 ended "early" at a picturesque town and everyone almost imploded with excitement when we spotted a restaurant. Rice, beans and tortilla made a welcome break from rations. The roadtrip dropped by in the evening which was excellent timing, as quite a bit of souvenir shopping took place earlier in the day. Of course, it was lovely to see them too, and we all slept on the porch of a school on a warm evening. 

Day 8 involved quite a lot of plodding forward in single file in the rain and we were thrilled to finally arrive at another school where the local community were holding a 4 hour First Aid course. Great! The next couple of days went by in a blur, involving a lot of mud, and I must give a special mention to my sandals which are no longer with me as I said goodbye to them thigh-high deep in mud. 

Unfortunately, Nati had to leave us today (members dropping like flies) but luckily Dawn has arrived and everyone is super psyched for 24k tomorrow!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Photo Blog: X-ray 5 and X-ray 6!

Here are a few snaps from the roadtrip crew's visits to X-ray 5 in the community of Yeluca in Miraflor and X-ray 6 in the community of Los Llanitos in Achuapa....


X-Ray 5

And over in Achuapa...X-Ray 6!


That's all for now. Stay tuned for more updates from the other groups!


*All photos by Emily Paxton & Abi France*

Sunday, 28 August 2011

In the jungle, the mighty jungle...

Buenas dias!! Having spent 5 days out on the bumpy road, taking in some of the stunning sights of Costa Rica, Juliet Bravo 3 are now back at fieldbase and ready to fill you in on the goings on of Xray 4! Arriving mid morning at La Cangreja to a muddy, yet extremely chirpy Xray 4, we successfully interrupted their hard work for a cheeky cup of tea and a catch up about what they’ve all been up to for the past 10 days. Without further ado, let’s hear from Xray 4’s blogger Justin……..

‘In the jungle, the mighty jungle of La Cangreja National Park, greetings from the intrepid Xray 4! In our short time here we have been very busy: to talk you through an average day, Xray 4 would wake, spring out of bed into an energy busting game of ninja, then hit the project site, where follows a day of levelling ground, shovelling mud, and working on the greenhouses where tropical trees are grown ready to be shipped worldwide.

The greenhouse the group have been working on

The evenings are spent well, with Claire and Catriona making lovely bracelets for the group, as well as a rousing game (or two!) of Mafia (it’s always jenny!). When it rains in La Cangreja, it doesn’t just rain – it pours! Justin takes the opportunity to dive straight in and use the rain as a shower – it really works!

Xray 4 have also learnt the art of foraging – Lloyd found us an orange tree whilst Isaak and Luke cooked up some plantain. The rangers were also nice enough to give us some fresh piña (pineapple!) The constructive spirit also caught Xray 4 when Maykol fashioned a makeshift shower from basha tarps and a hose pipe. Luke added a roof, remarking that we wouldn’t want to get wet in the shower… (?!)

Even the strongest need their days off, and we found ours when visiting the beautiful Rio Negro, where naturally formed jacuzzis helped the group relax after a hard days work. 

Finally, Xray 4 would like everyone to join us for the celebration of our very own Karen’s 20th birthday! We celebrated with cake and games such as pass the parcel and musical chairs. Raleigh is not for the faint hearted!

The intrepid Xray 4’s next steps are to the amazing Playa Hermosa, where we will be going out on turtle patrols to rescue eggs and set free baby turtles into the sea. Wish us luck as we stride boldly onto the beach!’

Xray 4 taking some time out from work with a game of cards
Cerro Cangreja - the torrential rain looming in the distance!

Blog written by Justin Shenolikar. Photos by Cathy Titterton.

So that’s the low down on what Xray 4 have been up to for the last 10 days! All in all the group are on top form and looking forward to spending the second half of their phase on turtle patrol at the beautiful Playa Hermosa. Juliet Bravo 3 are now back at fieldbase eagerly awaiting more blogs to come through on the radio from all the project groups so we can get them up for all of you to read, so keep checking! Pura Vida!!

Blog written by Wellard. Photos by Cathy Titterton. 

Saturday, 27 August 2011

News from X-ray 5

Toot toot - Bravo one are still out and about, living the Landrover dream, off-roading to their hearts galore and enjoying some stunning Nicaraguan scenery! This morning we left X-ray 5 over in Yeluca after spending the last two nights with them, and have just stopped off at the local internet café with just about enough time to dish out the latest to you folks back home.

X-ray are on top form! When we arrived at the community on Thursday afternoon and we were able to drive straight up to the work site and were greeted by a somewhat hardy looking team. The guys have been building up the walls to the community centre and you can really see the building taking shape. They have been busy collecting rocks from the nearby fields (after helping them out with this yesterday I can tell you it´s not as easy as it sounds), collecting mud, mixing their own cement and bricklaying and there seemed to be fully loaded wheelbarrows coming in from all directions. The community centre is set to be finished fairly soon and then X-ray 5 are free to let their artistic flavours flow as they´ll then be left to decorate. All in all, the group are on good form. Surrounded by 360 degree breathtaking views of rolling hills and mountains there isn´t much to complain about. The host families´ kindness is overwhelming. The group are brought snacks and lunch to the worksite daily, and are enjoying some truly delicious traditional Nicaraguan cuisine to fuel them up for their days. Last night we enjoyed a party with some of the local families which gave us Raleigh folk the chance to be taught how to really dance – Nicaraguan style, as well as playing a few games with the families, finishing off with an intense round of Ninja which was won by one of the local children whose combat moves were so defined and her technique so smooth we are starting to think that she may actually be a real ninja. But that´s enough from me, let´s hear what the group has to say about it all, with a few words from team blogger, Ryan…

X-ray 5 are living in a small community called Yeluca nestled amongst the beautiful Foro Miraflor highlands in the northern reaches of Nicaragua, close to the border with Honduras. We have been welcomed into the community with immense hospitality and made to feel like one of the family in our new homes. Many of the houses are simple structures shared with an assortment of farm yard animals and pets… chickens, pigs, dogs, cats and cows – you name it, we´ve had it trying to get into our bedrooms.
We have been making fantastic progress on the community centre and we´re improving our Spanish builder lingo… Mezcala, codals, baldes! All second nature now. The walls are going up at a rapid rate and we are well on track to meeting our target of completing the project in this phase – although certain members of the team have been caught sleeping on the job! The food here consists mainly of cheese, corn and beans prepared and served in every conceivable form and in copious quantities. However, Reggie (AKA Reynaldo) and Tom fancied some extra meat in their diet and were asked to kill a chicken for dinner (cutting, gutting, plucking, the works). Reggie proved more capable of doing a clean job, whereas Tom didn´t want to leave anything to chance and beheaded his innocent chicken in front of the locals. Smooth.
Being a highly religious community, Sunday is a rest day and we took the opportunity to explore nearby town, Yale, a short 5km walk away. For many this also meant the chance to buy some leaving presents for our families.
Soon after the road trip arrived on Thursday we all had a rest and checked out the river just beyond Ryan and Cindy´s house. After a hard days work there´s nothing better than relaxing in the water and having a splash with some of the local kids. Keep checking out the blog for more updates from paradise. X-ray 5.

The bravo team are now off to drop Dawn (that´s me, gulp) off with X-ray 2 for some trek-trekkety-trekking, and will then head straight back to fieldbase to prepare for the final changeover (sigh, sniff, sob). More updates from the guys back at base soon. Keep checking the blog for photo´s of X-ray 5 as the team will be posting these up when they arrive back at base.

De acachimba/pura vida!

Blog written by Dawn Tennant unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Updates from Bravo one

Buena’s dias amigos! Bravo one has been out on the road for a good few days now and already we've been able to catch up with our groups here in Nicaragua. First point of call was with X-ray 6 over in Achuapa. We met up with the group at lunch time after an hours trek into the village and were greeted with the friendly faces of Connor and Corrie, and then sat down to a delicious meal prepared by our host family, Dona Camilla. A good start to our visit. We then caught up with the group who were busy digging, shoveling and pikaxing their day away at the work site. The group are currently working a new gravity-fed water project in the community of Los Llanitos, just a half an hour walk from where our previous Raleigh groups stayed, over in Quebrada Honda. The guys have only been working for a few days but they have already made some real progress. With a goal to finish the project in this single phase and to finish off the final touches to the water project in Quebrada Honda, the team have a lot of work on their hands and they aren't wasting any time. Let's hear what the group have been up to in their time so far with blog report written by Elliot...

Please note that Imi Morgan has moved from trek group X-ray 2 to community project in Los Llanitos, Achuapa X-ray 6. Please address any futher blog messages to her to X-ray 6. Gracias!

After a long two hour journey in the company of X-ray 5 and X-ray 2, we said goodbye to our friends at the Nicaraguan town of Estelí. We had three more hours on our own "party bus" in which we were able to connect our iPods to the speakers. We arrived in Achuapa and made the final leg of the journey on foot and were immediately treated to a downpour. The rain dampened only our clothes not our spirits and we arrived at Los Llanitos. Amongst the other livestock we were divided into our houses and introduced to our new surrogate families.
It has only been three days now and early shyness has been overcome and conversation, although basic, is coming along wonderfully. We have debated with the members of the village about how to go about starting our project and we have now begun to build a gravity-fed water system from a nearby stream that will provide running water for each household. This is a little more ambitious than our original plan but X-ray 6 are determined to help as much as we can here in Achuapa. We have settled in well and some of us attended church on Sunday of which we were greatly moved by the heartfelt welcome we received. We look forward to what we can learn from the community, as well as doing what we can to aid them.

Getting together for the evening

The beautiful views that surround Achuapa

Bravo one has also just returned from a visit to our Nicaraguan trekkers, X-ray 2 and it has to be said that despite some initial worries and a few nervous, first time trekkers, this group are really enjoying life out on the beaten track - going for gold and taking in every second of their adventure. After a somewhat tiresome first couple of days, spirits are soaring. The group are cheery, chirpy and getting fitter by the day. When we joined them yesterday afternoon they had been resting in their home for the night, a local school in the small town of La Tejera (just 20km from Estelí), after just having returned from a trip to the town's cheese factory; each carrying bags full of cheesy goodness and souvenirs! I suppose the cheese makes a nice change from Raleigh rations of noodles and tuna, so why not stock up?! Here are a few words from the group's designated blogger, Abi...

As X-ray 2 set off on the now familiar bus journey to Nicaragua, there was a slight air of trepidation: it was finally happening - we were the last ones to do the trek and we were so ready! Sort of...
Filled to the brim with advice (and horror stories) and armed with our one t-shirt for nineteen days (ew), we had a smooth journey and a chilled first days walk finishing at what can only be described as a terracotta mansion. Unfortunately we were not to be so lucky the next day; a promising start eventually turned into a twelve hour trek (no punn intended) and we collapsed, exhausted, at a farm house for the night. Everyone was in an excellent mood the next morning (only joking) and we bid farewell to Imi as she left for a community project in Achuapa. Our twelve hour day day actually paled in comparison to Sunday which ended at a military base a sweet thirteen and a half hours after we set off; more than a few tears were shed that day. the views from so high up were spectacular, but we only enjoyed them for about forty seconds before once again we collapsed onto our uninflated roll matts.
Monday began with amazing views as we walked through a "magical" pine forest (to quote the route card), and we enjoyed our break above the clouds. we were rewarded for our last two days toil by finishing at 11.30am and decided to take a three hour lunch break outside a fully stocked pulperia (coke has never tasted so good). We're thinking of following the Turrimacho trek groups example and looking at the relationship between altitude and pulperia girls' level of hotness. Watch this space.

Relaxing after a hard days trek

Organising the next couple of days snacks. Beautiful

The girls tuck into some dulce de leche...
Bravo one are now off to visit X-ray 5 over in Yeluca, Miraflor to see how they're getting on with their community centre, so we'll be able to update the blog soon with news from their end. As for me (Dawn) I'll be off trekking with X-ray 2 in a few days but the rest of the fieldbase team will be keeping you up to date with all the latest from the groups on my behalf. So for now, all the way from sunny Nicaragua, de acachimba!

(wish me luck!)

Blog written by Dawn Tennant, unless otherwise stated. Photo's by Dawn Tennant.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

volcanoes and trekking

Hi to all the parents, family and friends.  The road trips have been off visiting the projects and you will be delighted to hear they have returned with some blog entries written by your loved ones.  Juliette 3 (as Laura, Amy, Wellard and Cathy have decided to be named) met with X-ray 1 who were on good form and collected these words from Joanna Bartlett:
 It was hot, sunny, dry and approaching midday when we, x-ray 1 took our first step of the 250km Turimacho trek across Costa Rica.  From Cimarrones Arriba we glanced at the Caribbean coast a few kilometres in the distance and then headed towards the pacific.  Kelly reminded us frequently that we would be at the beach soon!  While this reward was on all our minds we also took in the waterfalls, stunning views, nature and people we saw on the way.
 The first few days we trekked alongside countryside paths.  Day 2 also brought with it the mystery of the missing salami, which meant a disappointing lunch for the next day, but also amusing jokes regarding the salamis whereabouts.
 We have tackled the muddy slopes in the jungle.  The climb was tough and in some places the mud was so persistent that it sucked our boots into it; claiming Darens boots on numerous occasions.
 Still spirits remained high and we sang and danced our way through the jungle, yelling ‘pompi’ (in Cantonese) when anybody slipped in the mud, which was quite often.
 Our 14 year old jungle guide Juan Louis was very patient with our trudging pace.  We parted with him on day 5.  This was our longest day of trekking yet, taking us 10 hours to reach our destination, San Joaquin.  This was also the day with the best hilltop views and we passed a pulperia (small shop) for the first time, good news for us and the shop keeper!
 Tomorrow, day 6 we have a 21km hike ahead of us, fortunately we have some energy bombs(an oats, chocolate and syrup mix) to start the day!
Written by Joanna Bartlett.  Photos by Cathy Titterton.

Juliette 3, not lost!  Just checking the route....

a rare sighting of the Deputy programme manager Brie out on phase with X-ray 1

some venturers still manage to look glamorous, even on trek!

off they go for a day of trekking 21km!!!

Juliette 3 (Laura, Amy, Wellard and Cathy) then spent last night with x-ray 3 and can confirm the report below from Alfie of an evening of charades with a lively and fun group.

Alfie writes...........

We have been working on Volcan Turrialba (a volcano) and I can speak for the whole group when I say it has been the most enjoyable phase.  The working day is made easier by the rangers who are pretty damn funny.
I would say that the best part of the day is in the afternoon when we return to what must from the outside look like student digs.  This is the part of the day when we chill out and this period of time has been filled with conversations about what everyone is doing when they go home or are travelling on.  This makes it very obvious that it is the last phase.
Also at night we have our daily game of ‘Come dine with me’.  This is where there is stiff competition in what is made for dinner.  Some so far have seen:
Spicy noodles – Francis
Mac & cheese – Hugh
Curry – Kay
Better than normal pasta sauce – Cam
Cheesy mash – Alfie
Guacamole – Cam
Egg fried rice – Kay
But please don’t get the impression we are living luxuriously!
 On our day off we visited a town that had been evacuated due to acid rain and saw a house which had no roof as it had been totally eaten away by acid rain.  Although we are loving working at the volcano that day made us realise the destructive power it has.
In the evenings we have had a fair few games of charades and Mafia...... it has started to get a little competitive!
All in all we are enjoying every moment of this phase.  There always seems to be laughter from when we wake until we go to bed.  There are many different personalities in our group but this helps to bring us together and widen our conversations.  I feel as if x-ray 3 has become a type of family!
 PS.  Keep the blog messages coming, we really appreciate them.

Blog written by Alfie Carapiet.  Photos by Cathy Titterton.

Volcan Turrialba

The Rangers use quad bikes to get the heavy materials up the volcano.

Kiwi Cam building the paths.

The road trips are still out there collecting blog entries from the venturers in the other x-ray groups so check back over the next few days for more updates.
Blog written by Laura Salmon.  Photos by Cathy Titterton.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Stories via the Comms Room...

Hello everyone! 
This is Kat here -  the lovely Dawn is currently in Nicaragua with Bravo 1 (Phil, Abi and Emily) visiting all our groups up there so the rest of the team at fieldbase will be keeping you updated for a while!
Last night was my turn to sleep in the Comms Room. I’m not sure if this has been explained before so I will attempt to describe what it entails... so every night one member of the fieldbase team spends the night in the Comms room- this is where the radio and phones live. This is so that the teams can contact us at any time should they need to. It is interesting trying to get to sleep with the whirring of the radio in the background! The best bit about it is you get to wake up at 6am and speak to the groups who go through what we call a SITREP (situation rep) or a Message Check. It’s great to hear from them and find out what they achieved yesterday, where they are (especially useful for the trek groups!), what they intend to be doing throughout the day ahead and so on... There are always some funny stories and requests and of course now that football season has started the boys (PM Tom in particular!) want to be kept informed about who is beating who!
So, this is what I learnt this morning:
X-ray 1 are all in great spirits and are doing really well. Bravo 3 (Sarah (aka Wellard), Laura, Amy and Cathy) went to visit them yesterday to drop off some food and camp with them. The weather has been being kind to them too which was good to hear!
X-ray 2 were already making great progress on the day’s trek when I spoke to them at 06.45 this morning! I think they had quite a short days walk today as well so they would have reached their destination pretty early and had a nice relaxing afternoon!
X-ray 3 visited a deserted village on the other side of the volcano yesterday... it sounded really interesting (and a bit creepy!) and today they were continuing their work building and painting the fences on the trail. Bravo 3 are off to stay with them tonight in their cute little cottage on the side of the volcano. I think they will also be receiving some bread pudding lovingly made by Pedro here at fieldbase. Apparently X-ray 1 wolfed it down last night!
X-Ray 3's volcano view lodgings
X-ray 4 were working on the plant nurseries yesterday and today were going on a trip to the river Rio Negro to a waterfall/natural Jacuzzi apparently! (I’m rather jealous to say the least!)
X-ray 5 are doing a really good job up in Miraflor. I visited the community they are staying with on the last phase, they were so incredibly hospitable and the food was incredible! I'm sure X-ray 5 will all have a turn at milking the cows too... and if they are lucky get to try a very fresh chocolate milkshake like we did!
The locals will show them how it is done!
X-ray 6 are being visited by Bravo 1 today and some of the team had walked out to meet the car... Bravo 1 are in for a treat as the houses the team are sleeping in are amazing. Last phase the family I stayed with gave Wellard and I their bedroom and in the morning we were woken up to freshly cooked eggs, rice, cheese and beans! Yum! The group are making great progress on getting the water pipes to some of the more remote houses.
Emily enjoying the Nicaraguan countryside
Victor 1 (this is what Carwyn, Jon and HCV Daniel decided they wanted to be called?!) have successfully completed their recce for a new section of the Miratombo trek for the next expedition which is exciting! They crossed the border back into Costa Rica today so I will be seeing them shortly no doubt.

Sorry that I haven't been able to provide you with photos of the venturers today - I'm doing my stint at fieldbase so haven't been to visit the groups. As and when the roadtrips return we will have dozens for you I'm sure!

Well, that is all for now. Hopefully Bravo 3 will come back with a venturer blog tomorrow and I can send that your way!
Pura Vida!
Blog and photos by Kat Mammone