Sunday, 16 December 2012

Final goodbye to 12L

So we've now had the final few days take stock ( both literally and metaphorically) of our Raleigh experience.  First job, as always, was to clean team kit, personal kit and yourself - a cold shower has never felt so good.  Then each group held a debrief so that everyone could learn from their most recent experiences on phase.

There was some time in Turrialba for last minute shopping - or buying up the treats that you've missed the most over the past 19 days.  We the final skit performances, and with them the last chance to win ice cream (well done Zulu 5!)

There was time for reflection to consider the Raleigh experience as a whole; how we've challenged ourselves, how we've grown over the expedition and how we can carry on the Raleigh spirit on in to our day to day lives back home.  That evening we wrapped up with a Christmas dinner and party, because even though it's not snowing here it is definitely that time of year.  This was when we presented the "Golden mess tin awards", like the Oscars only better.  Well done to Alex, Tiggy, Omar, Luke and Patrice.

And then before you know it you're loved ones will be back home ready to tell you all their stories, share photographs....and no doubt give you a tonne of very dirty washing!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The final countdown...

Alex back from Trek
Alex can't wait to say hello
Everyone is back at Fieldbase, the Nicaraguan bus arrived yesterday and the Costa Rican buses today.
Claudia and Hester
Claudia and Hester - welcome back
Lilian and Matt
Lilian and Matt - big hug

Monday, 10 December 2012

The sun shines on Zulu 1

Zulu 1 send messages home from the Coast to Coast Trek.  The sun came out part way through the filming which, although a good thing for our trekkers, did rather mess up our video.  So apologies for the bright light and hope that you can still make everybody out.

In order you'll hear from Clare, Ben, Bo, Patrice, Lilian, Eveline, Henry, Sarah, Paul, Angel, Mela, Ziggy and Claudia.

Nicaraguan family and friends

Vinnie, Arlene and Eveline with family
Vinnie, Arlene and Eveline with their Nicaraguan family
You'll have seen from the blog so far that each of our Community projects, in La Arenilla and Los Loros, provide a unique experience for venturers.  Whilst we are there we join our communities wholeheartedly; be that at work, at home or at play. 
Andrea cooking tortilla
Andrea makes breakfast
Venturers have relished the chance to be shown how to make tortillas, milk cows and feed chickens.  Our groups have loved the chance to spend time in the classroom teaching english classes (heads, shoulders knees and toes anyone?).
Classroom in Los Loros
Anna, Alex, Jose and Sarah - heads, shoulders, knees and toes!
The language of sport is of course universal with football and baseball providing great opportunities for everyone to join together and get to know each other on the field.  Card games, Ninja and clapping games are other ways to break down barriers.
Aishath and Floor make a friend
Aishath and Floor make a new friend
And of course we work alongside members of the community to provide the water supply or houses.  The families that will benefit from the projects are fully involved very step of the way, from planning and labouring through to creating the structures that will maintain the facilities once Raleigh has moved on to other communities nearby.  They are literally side by side with us as we dig, pick axe and build.

Ben at work in La Arenilla
Ben working with the people who will live in the house we are buiding

Time and time again venturers come back from this phase saying that the best thing was the time spent with their families, the characters that they met along the way and the appreciation of the community for the work that Raleigh has done.
X-Ray 5 and the community of La Arenilla
X-Ray 5 with the whole community

Raleigh Chain explained

The quickest way to get lots of stuff from A to B is a Raleigh Chain (or you may call it a human chain if you aren't on expedition.)

If you have 400 mud bricks to move from one house to the next?....then Raleigh Chain.  

Tor and Ben - La Arenilla
Tor and Ben - is that heavier than you expected?
 If you have tonnes of gravel to move up the path?....then Raleigh Chain.
Nicole and Puck - Carara
Nicole and Puck - pass it on

There are lots of tricks to make it more interesting.  Passing on jokes, little known facts or indeed gossip along with that rock or sack makes the time pass more quickly.  Singing is another good way to move things along.  This has been the practice time that has given rise to many a prize winning skit.

And of course we somtimes get some additional help along the way...wheelbarrows are good too.
Little helper - La Arenilla
A little helper gives us a hand

The Raleigh Chain symbolises what were are all about here on expedition.  Working together, doing our share, enjoying the process and achieving results that we wouldn't manage on our own.  The total being more than the sum of the parts.

Arlene and Angel - La Arenilla
Arlene and Angel - have some mud

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Zulu 1 - make it out of the jungle

The Zulu 1 warriors started of on the Caribbean coast meeting some amazing locals on the way, before heading off into the jungle.
Claudia and Angel - Zulu 1
Claudia & Angel plan ...
Mela - Zulu 1
...Mela checks

The jungle was full of amazing scenery but also full of mud, steep hills, more mud and rain.  We all slid about, a LOT.  Top tumbler awards go to Patrice and Lilian amassing 15 slips each (at least) - though no harm done except to their pride.
Ben overjoyed wit the thought of a day trekking
After the jungle we headed to St Joaquin and stayed in a church and had an amazing time walking through towns and taking in some Costa Rican culture.

Eveline and Lilian - Zulu 1
Eveline and Lilian side be side
Just when we thought we were finished with the jungle we had some more hills and stunning views with a spot of camping.  Then lo and behold we were back in the jungle with more mud and steep hills.  But the hills can't bring down the Zulu warriors and as we have arrived at every destination early. 
B0 - Zulu 1
Bo strides out
This evening we have just arrived at a community centre at Esperanza after conquering two mountains and reaching almost 3,000 metres.  We literally have our heads in the clouds.  We are pretty damn awesome, we don't really need the PMs anymore - but we let them come along for the views.
Patrice, Project Comms officer
Patrice - Zulu 1
Patrice taking a moment to reflect

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

On the first day of Christmas Zulu 3 gave to me...

Hello there everyone I'd like to start this blog post off as we start every morning: 21 days 'til Christmas!

And just under two weeks until we will all be either continuing our travels or heading home. The last 9 days here at Carara have flown by. We started our work here by joining forces with some local volunteers to move rocks from one section of the park to another. The week that followed was a blur of rakes, gravel bags and wheelbarrows. Although we all felt a bit like worker ants marching along the same stretch of path over and over again, we managed to finish gravelling at least 100m of path.
Gravel at Carara National Park
Lots of gravel...
Along the way we were met with many nods of both approval for the good work we'd done so far and disapproval from some very keen birdwatchers whom we probably disturbed with our squeaky wheelbarrows. For the most part though the people we've come across have thanked us for the work we're doing or have stopped to chat for a while. We even hosted a tea party with a couple who happened upon our lovely Casa Verde.

Speaking of accommodation we've got a pretty sweet setup over here. Proper beds make for an excellent night's sleep and flushing toilets are a welcome change after our trek and community phases. Showers allow us to stay fresh and clean after a hard day's work and a fully functional kitchen has made for some exciting new food creations. Pork and beans have never tasted so good. We even have a girls vs. boys energy bomb competition which the girls won for originality and healthiness but the boys ultimately took the prize for their enthusiasm during presentation.
Full store cupboard - pork and beans top left
Besides keeping ourselves full after a long day's work we spend the evenings relaxing in hammocks or playing games. Obviously ninja has continued to be a source of great entertainment. The other day we played a round with some visiting university students who have been keeping us company. No doubt due to the amount of practise we've had team Raleigh emerged triumphant as our PM Vic defeated the visitors in a 1 to 1 showdown. Uno and chess have quickly become the other go-to games of choice.

Although our current jungle surroundings don't remind most of us of our typical winters back home, we've come fully prepared to celebrate the holiday season. A Christmas tree and Santa hats we've brought with us will be put to good use at Playa Hermosa once we move there on December 6th and most definitely won't look out of place.

by Sophie, Project Comms Officer

Friday, 30 November 2012

Digging those trenches... Zulu 4

Here in Los Loros we're all living with our new Nicaraguan families.  For example I have 3 new brothers and 2 new sisters.  My dad is Gonzalo who is a big man who gives big hugs to the whole the family, and that now includes me.  After a hard days work we play games together in the evening and their favourite is definitely Ninja.  I took so many photographs of my brothers and sisters on the first night (they loved seeing themselves) that I ran out of camera battery straight away.  But it was definitely worth it.  My only problem here is that I want to learn more Spanish so that I can really talk with them, so I'm borrowing a phrase book tonight.
Zulu 4 Raleigh chain
Zulu 4 showing us the Raleigh chain in action
The first two phases of Expedition 12L did a great job in building the water tank and bringing water down from the water source to the village.  Our last phase of the project here in Los Loros is to build more trenches so that we can connect the last few houses and a church to the gravity feed water system.  One of the last ones to get water will be my family's home. At the moment they have a long walk to collect water so I know that it will make a big difference to their lives.  We work together as a team, meeting at Ben and Diego´s house every morning to collect our tools - and use the tried and tested Raleigh chain to get the spades and pick axes up to the work site.
Matt digging
Matt is digging this trench building
We have 900m to dig but the thought of how my family's life will improve certainly makes the work easier to enjoy.  We´re probably about a third of the way through now, but we´re all determined to get it finished before we leave.
Suwen and Puck put their backs into it

by Suwen,  Project Comms Officer

Zulu 2...tired but inspired!

It's phase 3, two other Raleigh groups have already conquered Nicaragua's mountains, valleys and volcanoes.  Now it's our turn. We've been well informed; taken lots of zinc oxide tape (for blisters!!!) foot talcum powder and other professional trekking gear.  I think we all were well prepared, but still you have NO idea what the next 19 days will bring you.

Well today is day 5 and I can tell you it's pretty awesome.  At this very moment I'm in my tent listening to my trek playlist on my iPod which I made for those moments I would be in a dark place (hier ann de kust enz, voor de Nederlandse lezers). Totally not necessary!! It hasn't really been raining and we haven't got lost yet.  Of course it's only day 5, but this trek already can't go wrong for me.  The views are seriously amazing.  I'd like to take pictures the whole time but every pictures I take is nothing compared to the real thing ( I can understand you might want to throw up while you're reading is but I just can't really explain how beautiful things are here.)

We climb up mountains and end up in the clouds, 4 hours later we're in a sunny valley with 100 types of different green (I know another vomiting moment).  Every little village we pass we each get 5 oranges or mandarins, 20 different sets of directions to the next village, and the chance to fill up with water.  The Nicaraguans are so kind and generous, whole villages come out to have a look at us; this weird walking group with their houses on their backs.  The locals keep telling us that there is actually a bus that can take us to our destination...we've stopped trying to explain that we want to walk it all.  I say want because these past few days there haven't been any moments that we didn't want to walk.  I'm sure that they will come, but I'm also sure we'll get through them (we'll have to!)
So for all the mums and dads at home, your son/daughter is having the best time of their life.  Giving our booty an amazing workout whilst we're reflecting on our lives.  What else can a person ask for? We'll come back reborn...and really dirty!

To top things off with a last vomiting moment: it feels great to "get out there"!

By Hester, Project Comms Officer

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Zulu 5.. warm hearts, big smiles

After the two day bus journey from Turrialba we were greeted by many open arms and smiling faces in Miraflor.  Straight away the locals were there with a helping hand to carry our rucksacks down the long hill from the main road to their houses.  Their houses are warm, not only because they give us shelter from the fierce wind but the warmness in their hearts makes us feel at home.  We all now have new mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.
Today we started work and after moving 400 blocks to the foundation of a new house, we can see a smile from ear to ear on the owners face as he could see that his home is taking shape.  In the time that we are here we hope to complete his house and 5 others.
The thing that we are really enjoying about this phase is that we can keep track of the difference we are making, there is visible progress as we lay each brick we're building the community stronger and higher.
As we continue forward with this phase it is easy to return the warm smiles of the locals.

By Ben P, Project Comms Officer

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Which Zulu are you?

And all too soon we have reached the final phase of the 12L expedition.  We've gone from Alpha to Zulu and these are the new group allocations.  Deployment was bright and early on Friday morning with everyone now on their way.

Remember to quote the Zulu name in any messages that you send in via the blog, even though they aren't published on the website we do make sure that they are given to your nearest and dearest as soon as we can.

Zulu 1 - Coast to Coast Trek, Costa Rica
Claudia Fiedler, Claire Skelton, Sarah Crawford,
Henry Anderson, Ziggy Parris, Angel Mejia, Paul Darius, Ben Byers, Mela Piedra, Lilian Keller, Patrice Hollywood, Bo Brand, Eveline Kroese
Zulu 1
Zulu 1 - Coast to coast

Zulu 2 - Miratombo Trek, Nicaragua
Sarah Flynn, Jim Howard, Barney Harker
Alex Robertson, Hidde Van Lent, Callum Blues, Jose Quesada, Hester van Marwijk Kooy, Jakeling Escoto Rivera, Frankie Owusu-Brobbey, Yorleny Bermudez, Andrea Grundke, Vinnie Moriarty Barron
Zulu 2
Zulu 2 - Miratombo Trek

Zulu 3 - Environmental, starting in Carara National Park, Costa Rica
Jae Quiros, Vic Lapsins
Jonas Koch, Luke Waldock, Jonathan Corrales, Pedro Ocon, Archie Finlayson, Anika Kandola, Anna McManus, Arlene Rodriguez, Sophie LaMarre
Zulu 3
Zulu 3 - Environmental

Zulu 4 - Los Loros Water project, Nicaragua
Florian Cross, Charlie Cox, Karen Malone
Marco Mora Jimenez, Diego Molina, Matt Whiteside, Ben Hilton-Delhaye, Omar Ochoa, Carlyn Brown, Puck Van der Vet, Suwen James, Shannon Potter, Claudia Audlie

Zulu 4
Zulu 4 - Los Loros

Zulu 5 - Miraflor House building project, Nicaragua
Natalie Metcalfe, Pauline Wright, Nicole Ferris
Ben Persofsky, Jack Moxham, Louis Tindall, Harley Decker, Dave Rosen, Gustavo Granados, Floor van Selms, Vera Juarez, Tiggy Taliadoros, Vic McIrvine, Aishath Green
Zulu 5
Zulu 5 - Miraflor

Monday, 19 November 2012

X-ray 4 - full of beans!

We are waking up bright and early every day to mornings that are consistently sunny and hot - we are now in the super hot, dry season.  This ensures that the work is adequately sweaty but we are treated to the cool northern breeze that is a feature of the Nicaraguan highlands.

View from Los Loros
View from the worksite, Los Loros
Having spent a phase and a half digging a 1km trench, we have now started to fill it in again.  Thankfully we did remember to lay water pipes in the bottom first.  The water tank has been installed and is up and running.  It may be made of breeze blocks but we think it is a thing of beauty, it is after all the essential component in bringing water to our community of Los Loros.
Florian in Los Loros
Florian after a hard day's work, waiting for some beans
We are having a lovely time with the community who endlessly show us their appreciation.  This is done most obviously by keeping our stomachs full to the brim.  We are literally and metaphorically full of beans!

by Florian, Project Comms officer

X-ray 2 - welcome to the jungle

Sitting here in Carara you can really appreciate the beauty of Costa Rica as the lush rain forest provides shade from the beating sun. We now have the strange feeling of a roof above our heads as we are staying in Casa Verde, the rangers station.
Casa Verde Carara National Park
Our home - Casa Verde
Having been here for 4 days we're getting settled in and beginning to bond even more as a team through  group activities, quizzes, card games and working together (rather than in separate shifts as we did in Playa Hermosa in our work with the turtles).

We've been perfecting the third trail system alongside one of the leading rangers Oscar.  At the sprightly age of 56, Oscar is there for us 100% working and sweating with us, as well as bringing us coke on the rocks and bananas. He's told us many things about this wonderful place that is our home, the great trees and insects, the scarlet macaws and even the endlessly fascinating jungle cats.

We've gravelled and laid the big stones for about 50m so far and we have a lot more to do. We wake up each morning excited for the day ahead and as we put down the fingers for the days to come we realise how every day is special and we make the most of it even more.

from Ben P, Project Comms officer

Aishath in Carara NP
Aishath carrying gravel
Nicole in Carara NP
Nicole carrying more gravel
Suwen in Carara NP
Suwen carrying even more gravel
Ben in Carara NP
Ben coming back for yet more gravel

A day in the life of X-ray 3

After working like ants up and down the paths of Carara National Park we are loving our time in the paradise that is Playa Hermosa, where we are saving turtles and enjoying the beautiful setting.  Most of our work is done at night with shifts at the turtle hatchery and beach patrol.  Getting up for work at 11pm gets easier after a few days...
Turtle hatchery, Playa Hermosa
Turtle hatchery
In the daytime, as well as helping the rangers, we are making the most of X-ray 3's creative ingenuity by building up our basher bed home.  It has a fitted kitchen of driftwood, a candlelit dining room and a long drop... with a real toilet seat!
Lilian at Playa Hermosa
Lilian in the fitted kitchen, planning her next prank?
In our free time we get on down to the beach for a group game of volleyball, rounders or the X-ray 3 favourite - quidditch (complete with homemade snitch and bludgers).  Don (Dave) and LaLa's (Lillian) prank-athon reaches new levels and cloudy-pool-paradise is the perfect location for relaxing.  We eat dinner watching the sunset and then head down to the hatchery to spend a few more hours in the company of baby turtles.
Turtle patrol watching the sun rise... Dave, Floor and Claudia

by Shannon Potter, Project Comms officer

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

110km down, how many to go X-ray 1?

We are over halfway through our trek which means our little legs have covered over one hundred and ten kilometres over the last 12 days.  Yes, our legs and feet are sore but we begin each day with a warming up stretching session.
Miratombo Trek
Some of the 110km covered...
We have passed through the many tiny villages of the Nicaraguan mountains, we cooked dinner and played games with children from the school, devoured eggs, plantain and coffee from a little restaurant and stopped off for cake at multiple pulperias. Momatombo is slowly appearing closer and more spectacular whenever we look into the horizon.  
Cerro Negro
Cerro Negro - the final push
Our PMs organised a surprise fancy dressparty, halfway, to celebrate our achievement so far. This has given us more energy to enjoy and complete this trek, with a smile on our faces and in good time!

by Anika, Project Comms Officer 

X-ray 5 - building houses and friendships

In 2011 hurricanes devastated communities in Miraflor when heavy rain left many families homeless.  Raleigh has a longstanding relationship with these communities and was keen to get involved in the disaster relief initiative.

X-ray 5 are launching the project in La Arenilla.  They will lay new foundations, create adobe building blocks and build the walls and roofs of the new houses.  By the end of the expedition many families will move into new homes rather than live in makeshift accommodation.  This will make a huge difference in getting this community back on its feet.

At the moment X-ray 5 are divided into two groups; one group digging the foundations for the first house and the other group making the mud bricks. 
Adobe blocks
One adobe brick, two adobe hundred and sixty five adobe bricks....
Everyone is enjoying staying with their new, Nicaraguan families.  Max is proving a particular hit as he entertains all with his virtuoso guitar playing.

On Saturday afternoon there was a party to celebrate Max and Eveline's birthdays.  The whole community was invited, and the whole community came!
Birthday party games
The village was introduced to the Raleigh favourite of Ninja, which manages to transcend language barriers and makes everyone look just as silly as each other.  As a special surprise the community arranged a birthday cake for our lucky venturers which went down particularly well....after all you need an energy boost when there is construction work to be done!
X-ray 5
X-ray 5 - rock stars?