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!


  1. message for 11L alpha 2 Tim J Sawrey

    Great to follow your progress, and to see you relaxing on the sunbed! ... Is that all you do?! Seriously, we hope you are having a great time. We will be in touch again, now we have the technology! Love from the aged Grandparents...and Hanny :-) xxxxxx

  2. Will Harris Alpha 1

    Hi Will. How are you? I think you're back soon, so I'll send my next message to you by e-mail. Hope the trek is going well and that you're still psyched for walking.
    OMM is a sufficiently ridiculous story that I think it's best related by phone. I have a deadline for my MPhil now, glad to have something to work to. Kate and Stu's wedding this weekend, should be a good time. Looking forward to speaking to you soon.
    Love Amy



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