Monday, 31 October 2011

Alpha 4 Update by James

Very early in the morning (around 4.30am), Project Managers Owen and Gemma surreptitiously awoke and left the camp, leaving a note on the group tarp saying that they would be gone for the day leaving Chelsie as the leader in charge…
At 6am a wake up call for the rest of the group rang across the camp which involved Tyla and Clare singing ‘We will Rock You’.  After everyone had climbed down from their basha beds, porridge (for the third day running!) was served up by Delun and Mr T (aka Geoff). After breakfast, a few exhilarating games of Ninja were played until the team were pumped for another days work.
Work started at 7.30am and involved stacking driftwood from the beach in the blazing sun – it must have been at least 40 degrees celcius! After a hardcore 3 hours of pain and sweat, it was time for a warm down. The warm down game of choice was the old school favourite: British Bulldog. Mark stole the first round with a clear victory and the second round was taken by Mr T. By this time, the hunger pangs were starting to kick in so Delun and Chelsie took ownership and made a delicious lunch of scrambled eggs on toast. Yum!
Later that day, the important pursuit of coconut collecting for the changeover skit outfits ensued. Fieldbase – prepare yourself for the best skit ever!!!
Soon after the coconuts had been collected, the long lost PMs returned and the day was reviewed. The consensus decision was that it had been a very positive experience for the group as we had all become much closer as a result.  We are now looking forward to enjoying our last few days together.
Alpha 4 signing off…

Alpha 5 Update by Friso

Pura Vida friends and family of Alpha 5...
Time for an update! While on Sunday some of us were taking part in Alpha 5 Olympics a few of us went to visit our community to see if the families were ready for us to move in. When they returned they had good news! Finally, we were moving to the community in San Nicolas. We’d had a nice time in the Albergue but it was time for us to go for what we came for! Off we went to San Nicolas. Surprise surprise, A5 got stuck again. There is always an adventure waiting for us! We had to push and pull our bus out of the mud, and although the trip was not smooth we eventually reached our destination and moved in with our families. The families were delighted to have us and so far we have done an amazing job for them by digging trenches and laying water pipes. Little did we know that community phase would be practice for our trek with a 1 hour walk to and from our project site everyday. As our work requires a lot of energy we’ve being doing other activities in the afternoons. For example we’ve been teaching the locals English (whilst they’ve been teaching us Spanish), doing a Q&A with our local partners and refreshing in the waterfall. After these activities the group always meets up at the top of the ‘rock’ to enjoy the stunning sunsets and to radio in to Fieldbase.

This is Alpha 5... listening, out....

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Dizzy Heights, Lost Keys and an AK47 – The Tales of Bravo 4 by Logistics Manager, Tom Blindell

Seemingly safe in the knowledge that they were being led by intrepid Country Director Julian, the Bravo 4 boys of Randy ‘The Whale’, Tom ‘The Seal’, plus the unexpected but very welcome addition of Akash ‘AK47’ set off on a week long road trip in confident and buoyant mood!

Knowing that their first challenge was to climb Costa Rica’s highest and most imposing mountain, Cerro Chirripo to visit the outstanding group of Alpha 3 stationed at a heady 3400m, the boys prepared themselves well for the brutal climb. Setting off at dawn, light work was made of the first 7km and 1000m height gain. All was well at the half way stage! However, shortly into the 2nd half of the climb progress began to slow. A combination of altitude and the 27 kilos of fresh food the team were carrying for the group at the top began to take its toll on Don Julian! The big man, despite suffering from dizziness, headaches and feeling the cold powered on in determined fashion! Mercifully the 2000m climb was conquered by mid afternoon, the last 500m aided by the arrival of conscientious Project Managers Dunc and Rachel with flasks of hot tang! Sugary water has never tasted so good!
Layered up inside the somewhat chilly and ‘The Shining’-esque Los Crestones Ranger Station (who would have thought you could see your own breath in Costa Rica) the Alpha 3 gang were found to be in great spirits and loving their time in one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and most popular National Parks. Despite persistent wet and cloudy weather the group had made outstanding progress on their trail maintenance and were very appreciative of their privileged opportunity.
Arising at 2.30am the next morning the group conquered Cerro Chirripo’s 3,820m peak by 5.30am for sunrise. Conditions were misty and atmospheric but the occasional and fleeting ‘windows’ in the cloud afforded some stunning views and elated celebrations! Top work!
Sadly, with the weather improving throughout the morning the Bravo 4 team had to make their descent. 6 hours later and nursing some sore knees the boys were glad to reach the car, excited by the prospect of some warm and dry clothes. However they were foiled by a look of horror from Jules as the realisation set in that he’d left the car keys at the top! What a goose! Much laughter and mickey-taking ensued (and hasn’t stopped since)! Fortunately a well timed trip by local porters the following morning let Jules off the hook and negated the need for us to punish ourselves with a repeat climb!
Once on the road again, minus ‘The Whale’ who headed back to base, B4 headed further south to visit an indigenous reserve and discuss a potential future project. We met with Alexi, a community leader and famous musician and singer in the indigenous language of Ngobi. Alexi has recently established a cultural learning school to help pass on the traditions and practices of his people to the younger members of the community. It was incredibly interesting hearing him speak with such passion about the preservation of unique language, music and dance, and practical crafts. Most interestingly the Ngobi people also have an additional language which they use solely to communicate with nature and the spirits, called Bugle. How cool is that?! A few more details to be ironed out with regards to the project but it’s certainly important to protect native practices and something we’d be keen to support.
Onwards the following day to the characterful town of Golfito, a fishing village on the shores of a beautiful bay! Here we caught up with the rangers at the local National Park before meeting with Khanaki, a wonderfully cheerful chap who had walked for 5 hours from his indigenous community on the southernmost tip of Costa Rica into Panama and then ridden buses just to come and meet us. We discussed the potential for further projects in his community, a beautiful but very isolated population for whom Raleigh have built educational facilities in the past. However, the community is still in need of a facility that can be used by visiting doctors to provide much needed regular medical check ups. Walking for 7-9 hours along the beach and living with families in thatch roofed huts in one of the most remote areas of the country would be a really exciting prospect for a Raleigh group next year.
The following day involved a long but scenic drive up the coast towards Playa Hermosa and Alpha 4, with entertainment provided by thumping tunes, Julian’s quiz book and AK’s effortless humour!
Greeted by a song and a dance, the turtle saviours of Alpha 4 gave the roadtrip a special welcome and cooked up some outstanding empanadas and tortillas for supper! An enthusiastic tour of their innovative jungle camp complete with jungle shower, tool store, dining room AND lounge followed plus a look at the impressive defences the team has built to protect the turtle hatchery from the ferocious seas. The group have been working extremely hard and have thoroughly enjoyed their nightly patrols along the beach. Over 2 thousand baby turtles have been successfully released into the sea during A4’s tenure........buen trabaja guys!
With no further slip ups from Jules, Bravo 4 made it back to base on Thursday evening having conducted a food drop for A1. The brave Turrisantos Trekkers have taken on all the Costa Rican weather can throw at them and incessantly continue all smiles en route to the stunning beach at Palo Seco. Just a few more days to go guys.....vamos a la playa!
A wonderful road trip complete, the Bravo 4 boys are now stuck in to preparing Fieldbase for changeover and look forward to welcoming all the groups back in the next few days. Fun times!

Bravo 1 Blog by Nadia Nooruddin

On a very early Wednesday morning before it was properly light, the Bravo 1 road trip crew set off on a 9 day epic adventure scouring the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan landscapes in search of Alpha 2, 5 and 6. At times it was difficult, but in the end we always managed to find them no matter how hidden they were… 

The first day consisted of many hours of driving by Jed on and sometimes off road. There were times when we thought we wouldn’t make it as some of the ‘roads’ (aka clearings covered in mini boulders and lakes as a result of the heavy rains) were so treacherous, but the faithful Bravo 1 Land Rover always managed to pull through. We finally made it to Tejona in the Guanacaste province where Alpha 2 were supposed to be arriving. As if by some miracle (much later that day we realised that our compass pointed in the opposite direction), we met them on a winding path to a community centre where we would be spending the night with them. Alpha 2 had been the victim of endless days of rain and cool conditions but were surprisingly holding strong despite their difficult circumstances. It was fantastic seeing them and they were very grateful for the copious amounts of zinc oxide tape that we were able to provide. Dinner consisted of mash potatoes and chick peas (they actually go really well together) and lots of tea. After dinner, around 6 pm, we all headed to bed in preparation for a wake up call at 3am…

The next day we said good bye to Alpha 2 and set off early to our next destination, El Pilon, where we would be dropping off food for Alpha 2. We found the road to the exact drop off point but became nervous about travelling down it as it had literally become a river as a result of the rainstorms. AK47 (Akash), being the bravest member of our crew, agreed to walk through the road/river to see how deep it actually was. When it started approaching above ankle level with the possibility of getting deeper round the bend, we decided to think up an alternative plan. A restaurant where we had coffee earlier near the entrance of the road (and where the staff all seemed pretty friendly) agreed to take on the responsibility of looking after the food until Alpha 2 arrived to pick it up. They also mentioned that a 4x4 had got stuck on that road the previous day so we congratulated ourselves on our decision not to travel down it. 

It was now approaching early afternoon and we still needed to cross the Costa Rican and then Nicaraguan borders, a process which could potentially take hours. We sorted out the piles of paper work this entailed and made our way up to the first border. We sailed across this border pretty quickly and hoped it would be the same as we approached Nicaragua, but alas the passport authorities there clamped down on the fact that AK’s passport was coming close to its expiry date and wouldn’t let our beloved team member through. After a somewhat emotional good bye, Jed and I continued across the border while AK went back to Costa Rica to undertake various road trips there. Armed with one less member of the crew, we ventured on into unfamiliar territories… 

Our first destination was the region of Miraflor which is about 30km from the northern town of Esteli. Again, after driving up difficult dirt roads which had been badly affected by the weather conditions we made it to the village of El Cebollal where Alpha 6 was residing. We asked various locals where the Alpha 6 team actually was and each person seemed to be pointing in a different direction. By this time it was getting dark and we were getting worried that we would never find them. Eventually we made it to Don Rolando’s (the maestro builder and chief of the village) house where the Project Managers Bruce, Vic and Kelly were supposed to be staying. After a warm welcome from Don Rolando’s family and an amazing cup of coffee, the PMs finally showed up. It was exciting seeing them all again and we chatted until long after dinner, but in anticipation of the hard day’s work that lay ahead, we decided to turn in.  

Bright and early the next morning after some more amazing coffee, we met the rest of the Alpha 6 team. The day started with a game of ninja, and then another one and possibly a third, before we all walked down to the site where they were collecting wood which would form part of the foundations of the youth centre that was going to be built. Each piece of wood felt like it weighed a ton and part of the day involved each member of the team, in pairs, carrying a piece of wood up a rocky hill. I was pretty tired after carrying one piece up, but impressively Alpha 6 had spent the whole of the previous day doing this. Due to problems with the chain saw, there was no more wood to collect in the afternoon so a game of football with the local children ensued instead. Bruce, Jed and James were definitely men of the match! Sabrina slipping and avoiding falling into a pile of manure by literally an inch was a true comedy moment. 

The following morning (feeling quite stiff after a random press up competition before we went to bed – Don Rolando’s family probably thought we were quite strange), we hit the road again, this time heading to the town of Achuapa to meet Alpha 5… 

Alpha 5 were staying in a hostel near the centre of Achuapa town as the village of San Nicolas where they were meant to be working was still flooded. Despite the on-off work helping with the disaster recovery effort and wanting to start work in the community as soon as possible, spirits were still pretty high. After a warm welcome by the group and an hour or two of catching up, we had dinner and then went on to play a couple of rounds of the classic, mafia. In the morning, the Venturers informed us that they had organised the ‘Achuapa Olympics’. We were divided into teams and had to compete against each other in various races for the Olympic title. Probably the most interesting of the games involved each team standing in a line and each team member in turn had to down a litre of water, which ever group completing the fastest winning. I’m proud to say that no-one in my team vomited at the end! Close to the end of the Achuapa Olympics, we found out that the villagers had returned to San Nicolas and that we could head there that afternoon. The Alpha 5 team excitedly packed their belongings and took the bus up to the village. In the mean time, Jed and I waited in Achuapa town for the Bravo 1 Land Rover to come back and pick us up after it had dropped food supplies to the village. Unfortunately, the Landy got stuck on a very muddy road and had to be pulled out. Therefore Jed and I ended up waiting in the town for 3 hours drinking coffee and watching the locals pass by on their horses – it was like being in the wild west (except for the occasional 4x4). 

The next morning after staying the night in the village with the PMs Barney, Julie and Kunmi, we embarked on our journey back to Costa Rica and a final meeting with Alpha 2. 

We met Alpha 2 on a very hot and afternoon at Rincon Lodge. Rather than soaking wet and cold they were all sunbathing on sun loungers beside a swimming pool – it was hard to believe they were still on trek! It was a deserved rest after all they had been through and are about to embark on over the next following days…  

Good luck to Alpha 2, 5 and 6 for the remainder of Phase 1!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Alpha 6 Blog Update by Flor, Lisa & Molly

After 278 pieces of wood were carried and many full wheelbarrows of rock shifted, the materials were finally sat at the project site ready for the next few days of work. We began working on the foundations yesterday, nailing pillars together to hold the cement which we then mixed with sand and water. The human chain has come in handy once again to pass rock to the 60cm hole we dug. Everyone is excited to see the work finally coming together.
Last weekend we enjoyed an informal football match with some local children along with the Fieldbase team who were visiting. They gave us some laughs with Sabrina’s dramatic attempt to avoid falling in a large cow pat and Jed shocked us all with his English legs – was he actually wearing a great pair of milk bottle leggings?!
On our first day off we packed out bags with swimwear, sunscreen and lollipops and headed to a nearby (in Bruce's estimation) waterfall. We practiced our river crossing technique, which measured at a steady pace of one group every 30mins so maybe more practice maybe needed!
We utilised an afternoon off by talking and learning about poverty and the Millennium Development Goals. It sparked an interesting discussion and led to a heated debate. The Project Managers also taught us some new games as an alternative to Mafia - we thoroughly enjoyed climbing through plastic bags and chasing little pieces of paper with our eyes closed.
Our next blog will be upon arrival at Fieldbase, so until then...  Deacachimba!

Friday, 28 October 2011

A few photos from our groups in Costa Rica & Nicaragua

Alpha 1 - The Turrisantos Trek
Current location: Cedral
Day of walking until they reach the glorious Playa Palo Seco: 4
Number of Dragons yet to be slayed: 1 (Cerro Dragon that is!)
This is now Alpha 1´s natural environment. They no longer have use for beds, food that is not dehydrated, flushing toilets or electricty. 14 days and they are already carved out of wood...
Alpha 2 - Guanacaste Trek
Alpha Two have endured endless days of thunder storms, blisters, jungle, volcanoes, blisters and all kinds of scarey jungle creature things... just to prove it we have brought you photos... of them chillin´at Hotel Rincon Lodge! Don´t worry, Raleigh hasn´t gone soft... this was the base for their passage through Rincon de la Vieja National Park.. and yes, they stayed in tents, not hotel rooms!!
Alpha Two team... ASSEMBLEEEEE!!!
Man... this trek is TOUGH... Alpha 1 just don´t know they were born...
Did you know that gazebo in Spanish is ´belvedere´. Fascinating stuff huh?
Hey Alex... remember how you are actually the Comms Officer and instead of walking through storms, jungle and over mountains you could have been walking about Fieldbase in your flip flops, with fresh coffee on the pot and a comfy bed down the road to retire to after you´ve written a few blogs? Yeah?.. and how do you feel about the decision to trek instead? Uh-huh, gotcha...

Alpha 3 - Chirripo National Park
Alpha 3... or Alpha Hardcore as they deserve to be knows have stormed ahead with their work and completed everything the rangers had asked them to day after only a week! They´ve been given several more tasks to do and are well up for the challenge. As if working at 3400m wasn´t enough, A3 have been doing curcuits and going for runs at the end of their working day!
Best hat: Duncan / Best Shirt: Matt
3820 metres... on top of the world...
The A3 tanning competition was a bit of a non-starter...

Alpha 4 - Playa Hermosa
A4 have continued their turtle patrols, hatchery management and tree-planting. They finished their hatchery protection wall today... good work!
Mr T (Geoff) and Mark demonstrate their jungle shower... a complex, engineering feat... well done fellas

 I didn´t wear my nice white t-shirt and iron my shorts just to mess them
up in the sand, did I?... now DIGGGG minion!!
 Chelsie & Mark: We love cleaning!!! Honestly.
 Project Managers - Owen and Gemma
 Black & Decker work bench, jungle-styley...
 Hogar dulce hogar
 Could you spend 19 days sleeping here? Yes? Get out there then!
 Night patrol - burying the eggs in the hatchery...
 ... then releasing them when they hatch...
Good luck little one! 

The start of the turtle hatchery defence wall

 A to the 4

Alpha 5 - San Nicolas, Achuapa
Having spent a week helping with the relief work in Achuapa, A5 moved into the village of San Nicolas on Monday. They been given a warm welcome into the locals´ homes and have started work on their water project. Today they were digging trenches and carrying in materials from the main road into the community.
Now, you may think this is just a recycled photo from jungle camp... and you would be... absoultely right :(  We are trying to receive photos from A5 but their remote location is proving difficult. Soon!
Alpha 6 - El Cebollal, Miraflor Nature Reserve
A6 are still working their socks off carrying wood and digging the foundations for their building.
 A6 - what a team!
 Bruce with yet another Costa Rican slappy hand game...
 And streeeeeeetch.....ahhh, okay - READY
 Caption contest... entries sent via the comments section por favor. Prize winner will receive a free Raleigh expedition plus flights *See small print and restrictions at the bottom of the page...
 Hi-ho, hi-ho...
 These were cut using just a chain saw you know... yeah, impressive right!
 Sabrina: Work gloves - check. Boots - check. Silly over the shoulder bag - check
 A6 carried these all day everyday up a big hill for a week...
Thumbs up if you have indigestion from eating a massive bowl of rice and beans
 followed immediately by hard physical labour.