Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Back for the last time!

Wejepaaaa! Hola todo el mundo y beinvenidos a los dias ultimos de la expedicion 11G - wooooo! After what has been, personally, a crazy fun and hectic phase with seven days out on the road and the rest spent trekking in Nicaragua, I (Dawn) am back where I truly belong and have finally been reunited with my beloved blog to bring you all the latest news for our final days here at fieldbase.

Ladies and gents, friends, family and all other blog followers…. The Raleigh 11G&H expedition is officially complete! Our walking sticks have been put to rest, our boots kicked off for the very last time, the sticky plaster residue from our zinc tape has been scrubbed off our toes, our shovels and maddox’s have been returned back to the Bodega and our hair has finally been conditioned after 10 solid weeks of living 'Raleigh'. But alas don’t shed a tear just yet for we have so much going on here at fieldbase over the next couple of days that there is really too much celebrating to be done before we can all start slowly but surely falling into the 'end of Raleigh’ depression. Stay strong folks.

The groups returned back to base yesterday afternoon and spent last night recuperating and filling up their well worked physiques with a BBQ, followed by an evenings entertainment of skit performances and a relaxing film. Today our venturers are regrouping with their phase one Alpha groups for a chance to review and reflect over their Raleigh experience, and tonight we’ll all be gathered round a great, big, enormous bonfire with marshmallows in hand for an open mike night, with some live performances, music, poetry or anything that anyone would like to bring to the table for us all to enjoy.

So it’s been another successful phase for our venturers and PMs. Let’s get the round up from the groups for the very last time.

X-ray 1 The Turrimacho Trek, Joanna
With 214k before us, dropped off by the side of the road,
from Cimarrones to Cimarrones Arriba,
we were not used to trekking, it showed.

The next day we walked to Barbilla,
Past cattle and country lane,
We stayed in a school and were happy,
No need for the tents once again.

Day 3s jungle slopes were tricky,
Although we did not have far to go,
We slipped, slid and got caught in the rain,
Whilst following the ‘son of Ernesto’.

Then to Valle Esconcho on day 4,
Through jungle clearing and stream.
We spent the night in a pink and blue house,
In the middle of nowhere it seemed.

On day 5 towards Bajo Pacuare,
We had many rivers to cross,
Each time the sandal/boot dilemma,
And the foot drying, talc powder fuss!

Day 6 to Rio Pejibaje was long,
Just like the route card had said,
We did not make it all the way there,
We slept in a church instead.

On the 7th day we trekked to Selvas,
Past volcanoes and corn fields we went,
It rained when we got to the farmhouse
And whilst setting up our tent.

On day 8 I left for fieldbase,
Due to a foot injury,
The group made it to Purisil,
and had a great leaving party for Brie.

Day 9 I hear was a bit of a climb,
And reaching Tupanti was tough.
That night they camped under Pylons
There was a storm and the sleeping was rough.

Day 10 started without porridge,
But they manages to get by,
reaching their 2800m high.

On day 11 the venturers awoke
To find Ruth and Chava had gone.
So they made their way to Cedral,
20km in the sun.

When I returned on day 12,
everyone was trekking with more ease.
We stayed that night in a pretty house,
And dined on guacamole and chickpeas.

And although you could drive this in 6 hours,
that would not be the point.
We would not have seen the sights we saw,
Or felt the hills with our every joint.

X-ray 2 – The Miratombo Trek, Abi
X-ray 2 have finally completed the Miratombo trek and it has been an amazing experience; especially considering our initial reluctance (to put it mildly). I doubt that in the history of Raleigh there had been more of a turnaround in groups’ expectations and attitudes; we would now go so far as to say that their trek has been collectively voted as a favorite phase. The ever changing cast of our group meant that we were sometimes trekking with as few as nine of us, however, we were not to be fazed and improved in efficiency and stamina day by day. The best way to provide an insight into the sixteen days is to give you a rundown of our best moments, so here goes…
At number five; this is slightly cheating because it is not so much a moment as a theme throughout the trek, we’d like to give a huge shout out to all the communities that we passed through and stayed with, their hospitality was unparalleled and I can not even remember the amount of times we collapsed at a pulperia’s begging for water and sweet bread! On one occasion we were even given oxtail soup and tortillas, which made the afternoon’s walk that much easier. The people of Nicaragua have been phenomenal and we were sad to leave them and their beautiful country. (The joy of not having to walk anymore has soothed the sadness considerable). At number four, when we arrived at the town of La Tajera, super early on day seven, after a couple of ridiculously long days, to be greeted with a restaurant and the promise of a cheese factory and a gift shop in the neighboring town, everyone has a defining ‘I love trek’ moment! only made better by a passerby’s comment of “you guys look pretty good for having not showered for a few days.” Oh yeah. At number three, first and foremost in terms of the breathtaking views, has to be the day we walked up through the pine forest and emerged above the clouds, surrounded by green on all sides and a crystal clear, cloudless sky. As a group of predominantly city dwellers, it is so rare to be in the middle of such a spectacular landscape, and w decided to be very vocal about our appreciation with a screaming contest. The competition for the number one spot is fierce and in a last minute reshuffle, arriving at the laguna is at number two. The sense of relief was enormous as it slowly dawned on us that there would be no more walking, no more waking up at 3.30am and no more pork and beans! The fact that we could see the great height from which we had walked earlier in the day made the sense of accomplishment even stronger. Ok, so drum roll please, the number one spot goes to… arriving at the base of Cerro Negro and feeling as though we had teleported to another planet. The vast expanse of black sand with the towering volcano in the background provided ample photo opportunities, including, of course, some planking shots. Climbing the volcano the following morning at sunrise was well worth the reward at the top, despite lengthy discussions over whether his excursion was optional or not (it wasn’t). As the clouds cleared and we could almost see as far as Miraflor (ironically where we began some fifteen day earlier) our sense of it all being worth it was reaffirmed fully. We then ran to the bottom of the volcano, screaming all the way, a feeling best described as a phrase I heard from an American friend of mine, “we were rolling balls!”

X-ray 3, Volcan Turrialba and Braullio, Alfie
X-ray 3 are now pretty confident that we are the best group, because again it seems we’ve done too much work. We finished the path we were gravelling for day early! This is not to say it wasn’t hard work; we were loading up gravel into our rucksacks and walking 100 steps or so. As monotonous as that work was we all felt we were getting fitter by the day. We still kept our cooking challenge, but Kay and Cam were declared outright winner with their kickass chicken curry. One of the best aspects of the second part of this phase is that we were just a short walk away from a waterfall which is where we spent most of our afternoons. We celebrated two birthdays this phase, which included everything from cross-dressing themes to salsa dancing! Even the off truth or dare game. There was never a dull moment and it was a perfect end to a great Raleigh experience. Thank you!

X-ray 4, La Cangreja and Playa Hermosa, Justin
X-ray 4 have returned! To Playa Hermosa we gave a fond farewell to the sand and the turtles. On the last few days we earned some time to ourselves and headed down to the surfers stretch of the beach for a splash in the sea, and just a chill out before returning to the ranger’s station for a nice dinner cooked by Jonnie the ranger. X-ray 4 are so happy to have been involved in such worthwhile work; releasing almost 1000 baby turtles into the sea. With pride, X-ray 4 will be returning home soon with 10 weeks of achievements and new friends with them. So here’s to the days we’ve had on Raleigh and the amazing days yet to come.

X-ray 5, Yeluca, Ryan
X-ray 5 are back at fieldbase having downed tools for the last time and travelled by us for two days across Nicaragua. As our time in Yeluca drew to a close we made a concerted effort to leave as little work remaining on the construction of the community centre as possible so that it can be completed very soon. This community centre will serve as a shared space for everyone living in Yeluca to utilize and we hope it will unite them even further than the tight bonds which already exist among the families which live there. Our last evening was spent in the company of all our new friends and families as we looked back on our two weeks here and gave some short speeches for our experiences. It was also a local girl called Xiomara’s birthday so we made her a piñata which all the kids loved as the sweets rained down on them. As promised we managed to settle on a name for the new baby girl in Ryan and Cindy’s family; Florencia Gabriela Blandin. We all have had an amazing time in Yeluca and whilst for many it was absolutely a case of ‘hasta luego’ rather than ‘adios’, it was clear to see how emotionally attached we had all become to our new families as we bid farewell on Sunday morning. None of us will ever forget the time we spent there and I’m sure we can all take a little of the love and compassion which was given to us to wherever we are next headed in life.

X-ray 6, Elliot
Our last few days were spent with our families helping with daily tasks. These varied from Corrie, Esther, Sarah and Yandry who milked cows and Alfonso was given to the opportunity to work in the fields with his surrogate father. The other activities included tortilla making, and for some, killing the chickens for dinner. With heavy hearts and a few tears we have said goodbye and are on our way back to fieldbase. The project was a success and now all the houses in Las llanitos have access to a tap close to their homes. On our final day we had a celebratory dinner and were subject to a very moving speech thanking us for our efforts. The experience on the community phase was so far removed from other experiences on Raleigh. Members of X-Ray 6 felt a strong bond to both the people and the country. As we walked towards our pick up point the conversations revolved around unanimous determination to return to Nicaragua and reunite with our adoptive parents.

So there you have it, the last round up to the last phase of 11G. Some pretty awesome experiences have been had for sure. I’m off to help prep for the party ahead but I’ll be back blogging before you can say ‘tortilla!’ For now I’ll leave you entertained for the next three minutes (at least) with a few shots of yesterday’s return and the skit performances.

Pura vida!

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