Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Alpha One in Barbilla National Park

First of all I’d like to offer an apology for the sporadic timing of blog entries this past week. This has been due to the team being absent from the office on various training exercises. From here on in, we’ll be as ever present as the mouse and keyboard at your desktop, as you savour all the news from Raleigh Expedition 12B.

To business; Alpha One have returned from Barbilla National Park after trekking the opening 3 days of their phase: The Turrisantos Trek, and it may impress you to learn that this feat was achieved in a mere 2 days (they’re a wily bunch, Alpha One).A morning start at Barbilla Ranger Station allowed the group stunning views over the jungle and as the sun began its rapid ascent, it seemed A1 were in for an absolute peach of day. Not so. Shortly after entering the jungle the heavens well and truly opened, leaving Katie, Roeland and Dave as drowned as the proverbial rats (classic idiom). The going was fairly tough over undulating terrain, and the path for most parts was the consistency of kitchen condiments – throw in several river crossings and you’d be forgiven for wondering if they threw in the towel. That can be denied with a resounding no as good spirits and ground speed was maintained throughout as they made it to the Valle Escondido (Hidden Valley) to make camp around 2pm.

The next day saw a variation on a theme – more jungle, but a tough ascent and the absence of the rain. The previous days deluge had done little for conditions underfoot however, but with the bonhomie for which they are renowned, A1 slogged on and emerged from the trees. A moments rest to allow their eyes to readjust from the gloom of the jungle and they were back on the prize – a fairly steep descent through the fields to Bajo Pacuare, the Raleigh pick-up, and the ride back to fieldbase. A cracking trip.
Dawn at Valle Escondido
Entering Barbilla National Park

Alpha One's Roeland and Katie
View down to Bajo Pacuare
Dave, Katie and Roeland above the Rio Pacuare

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

After a tough couple of days in the jungle you would perhaps believe that some well-earned R&R would be in line for the brave VMs of 12B. Not so. Another day, another trip – its project allocation time.
The ceremony, although lacking the special effects and drama of an ITV reality show, was no less exciting, as VMs discovered where they would spending Phase One of Expedition 12B. Sadly this is just the briefest of entries as we prepare to set off for various destinations around Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Nonetheless I’ve helpfully listed the projects and groups below as they undertake their Project Planning Visits for the next 5 days, so you are aware of your loved ones’ progress:

Treks (all Costa Rica)

Alpha 1: Turrisantos Trek
Roeland Terpstra, Katie Philpott + special FB guest David Winterflood

Alpha 2: Corcovado Trek
 Daniel Walsh, Lucinda Ryan

Environment (all Costa Rica)

Alpha 3: Carara National Park
 Adri Rodriguez, Jonathan Baguley + special FB guest Jemma Grundon 

Alpha 4: La Amistad National Park
Jessica Soane, Alex Beaumont, Alex Dennis + special FB guest Alejandra Campos

Alpha 5: Barva National Park
Afsana Tahirova, Daniel Saborio, Caroline Bolt

Community (all Nicaragua)

Alpha 6: Achuapa, El Portillo
Francesca Hodge, Joseph Donovan

Alpha 7: Miraflor, La Naranjita
Fiona Arakelian, Matthew Jewers, Amanda Payne-Danson

Alpha 8: Miraflor, San Jose
Victoria Brennan, Danielle Percival, Clare Wright

Pura Vida!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Marching to the Jungle Beat

You’ll be pleased to know dear readers, that after 2 days trampling the terrain around Turrialba, the VMs have returned safe and sound to fieldbase. Hip Hip Hooray etc.

Rewind to Wednesday morning. Four groups were allocated and designated a Mountain Leader, who kindly gave a refresher of that timeless recreational activity – map reading. Following a few hours getting to grips with the finer points of (compass) needle-work, the Whiskey Groups were on their way. One factor which became apparent after only a few minutes trekking was the heat – Central America is a far cry from the Cairngorms, and a water bottle, sunhat, sun-cream combo was essential under the afternoon sun. 

After a ‘refreshing’ nights sleep camping on various football fields in the Tucurrique region it was a 3.30am rise in order to make the next scheduled meet point – for river crossing training! Two techniques can be adopted for this. First of all, there is the huddle – a 3-4 man effort which shuffles sideways like a corral rotating on the ebb/a planet of the apes’ style ritual. The second approach is the Gandalf conga – the lead person wielding a staff in the face of the flow (for balance) as the fellow team mates hold on in a column behind as they side-step across in unison. Both beautifully effective, dryness however cannot be guaranteed.

Thankfully it was yet another sun drenched day and clothes dried quickly in preparation for the biggie – Jungle Camp. After some impressive demonstrations in basha bed and hammock construction, it was the groups turn to set up for their camp for the night and the VMs didn’t disappoint with some truly enterprising camp craft – Whiskey One’s DoJo (Joseph Donovan) taking the plaudits for best bathroom; his concealed, and tastefully decorated design, gaining admirers throughout the VM’s. Maybe he’s in the wrong profession....

 The unique experience of a night’s stay in the jungle was perhaps disturbed by the incessant rain on the covering tarps through the night, but it was yet another early start in time for tool training before the march back to base in time for lunch. If only it were so simple. In a spate of ‘accidents’, all medics were struck down with an array of ‘injuries’. I would like to reassure you all, it was just a drill, enabling the groups to practise their medical skills, with all groups making it back to base safely. 

Just as you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does. It’s Project Allocation time! Check back soon for info regarding first phase projects, and which VMs will be undertaking them.

Until then

Pura Vida!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bienvenido II

Numbers swelled on Monday at fieldbase as fresh faced from a 6am San Jose – Turrialba bus ride, the Venturer Managers rolled into HQ – huzzah.

After a traditional breakfast of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) cooked by the indispensable Sandra (who has been an ever present since the first Costa Rica/Nicaragua expedition) it was onto the tour, with Raleigh veterans Pedro and Claire showing the troops (VMs) around the barracks (house/office).

After a refreshing dip in the pool (swim test) it was back to base for Comms training, setting up radios and practising calling in SITREPs (Situation Reports) to fieldbase – before settling in early to recover from the ardours of trans-Atlantic travel.

The second day of VM training has continued in similar vein. The morning was spent understanding health and safety procedures resulting in some entertaining performances in the group role plays ( is Tim Salt the new Colin Firth?) before a comprehensive run through of medical procedures and theory by our Medics. Lucinda, Joseph, Caroline, Jessica, Clare, Katie and Jayshree take a bow. Finally Raleigh guru, Ross gave a run through of packing for trek; let’s just say hikers will be fairly ‘aromatic’ by the end of it!

The VMs arrive
Comms - a team effort
Radio - pretty nifty piece of kit
Comms Hub
Interpretitive New Age Dance/Transport Safety
Interpretitive New Age Dance II
As you may have guessed our training on Wednesday continues with trekking, as groups tackle the Costa Rican countryside. Wild camping, river crossings, jungle training and Casevacs (Casualty Evacuation) will all be undertaken in the next couple of days. Until then...

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Living For The Weekend

It is now a full week since the Advanced Fieldbase Team touched down in Costa Rica and as a reward for their endeavours (pats on the back all round), were given the morning to take a trip up Volcan Irazú on a glorious Saturday. Bravos 2 and 4, both noble steeds, were loaded up and 90 minutes later, Team FB (Fieldbase) had ascended through the clouds to the summit. Scenery aside, a striking observation was the number of cyclists battling their way up Irazu’s flanks in the 25 degree heat. We doff our caps to you; a feat worthy of the upmost respect. Dubbed ‘El Coloso’, Irazú towers above the city of Cartago at 3432m and the views from the top were spectacular to say the least - the layer of cloud cover below providing an almost heavenly view (admire Ale’s stunning snaps below).

Sunday/Monday will see the relentless activity at Fieldbase kick up yet another gear – the Venturer Managers are on their way. Dave F, Tim and Pedro are San Jose bound to meet the recruits and return them safe and sound to Turrialba, where they will be welcomed over a breakfast of Gallo Pinto before the fun and games of training begin.

Friday, 20 January 2012


Title doesn't quite roll off the tongue does it? ....sigh....
I’m a man of my word. As promised here’s the scoop on some of the first-rate projects being undertaken by venturers on Expedition 12B, you lucky things, you:
Community phase
Miraflor Disaster Relief Housing project, Nicaragua
An incredible opportunity to work in an unbelievable setting, with possibly the friendliest and most hospitable people on the planet.
The gorgeous Miraflor Reserve is 206sqkm of beautiful mountainous terrain with various different ecosystems such as tropical savannah, dry tropical forest and mountain cloud forest.
Within the reserve there are a number of communities living through subsistence farming and gaining income from coffee growing, cattle farming and some small tourism initiatives. However the people have few resources and lack access to basic services such as health and education.
Towards the end of 2011, Miraflor was hit with a spate of bad weather and Raleigh groups will be working on a disaster relief project to rebuild houses in communities affected. 

Adventure Phase
Corcovado Trek
Grab yer boots, and lace ‘em tight. This is a corker of a trek.
Starting in the stunning montane La Amistad National Park, the largest national park in Costa Rica and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the trek gets the chance to walk through beautiful mountain scenery and towering cloud forest. After passing by waterfalls and hot springs the group will cross the Coto Brus valley to the Fila Costena – a chain of mountains that run parallel to the sea.
Once they are out of the mountains the group will finish the trek by crossing the famous Corcovado National Park that straddles the Osa Peninsula, walking through the best preserved tropical rainforest in Central America. The group will have a chance to see monkeys and Tapirs before the walk along the beaches of the Pacific Ocean for three days to meet the bus home.

Environmental Phase
Braulio Carillo National Park, Volcan Barva Sector
Possibly the closest you’ll get to playing Tarzan...

This phase will work at Volcan Barva sector of the Braulio Carrillo National Park – a stunning area of primary cloudforest situated on the Cordillera Central. Braulio Carrillo National Park abounds with animals, birds, insects and plants. The reserve acts as a biological corridor between many neighbouring protected areas. Raleigh has been approached to build a water system for the ranger station in this sector so that the rangers are able to manage and control this important protected area.

We are now a full complement of Advance Fieldbase staff as Lucinda our medic has arrived. Hopefully she will be underutilised (I think you understand what I mean by this). Below is a snap of your advanced fieldbase team. Compliments on haircuts and dress sense are most welcome.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Some Background Information

With 19 days until the venturers arrive at field base, it would perhaps be helpful of me to provide some interesting facts on the two magnificent countries of Costa Rica and Nicaragua....only some of which you may find useful (I love Google).

Costa Rica

Population: 4.64million

Total Area: 51,100kmsq

Where? : Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama on the Central American isthmus
Predominant Language: Spanish (97%), start brushing up!

Interesting Facts:
-         - Costa Rica aims to be carbon-neutral by 2021 (the world’s first).
-         -Limes are lemons. (struggle to get my head round this one)
-         - 25% of its land area made up by National Parks and Environmental Protection Areas.
-          -Top of the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index (index of well-being and environmental impact). Great stuff.


Population: 5.82 million

Total Area: 130,370kmsq (largest in Central America)

Where? : Costa Rica’s neighbour to the north.

Predominant Language: You guessed it, Spanish (96%)

Interesting Facts:
-          -Lake Nicaragua is not only Central America’s largest freshwater lake, but it is also home to Ometepe, the world’s largest volcanic island inside a freshwater lake.
-          -86 of the 88 constellations can be observed from Nicaragua.
-          -Daylight saving time is named after the current ruler or political party, therefore 2012’s daylight saving time will be called Sandinista time after the political party of top man Daniel Ortega.  Line that fact up for any dinner parties you may be attending on the 25th March.

Remember knowledge is power friends. I'll be back soon with more from field base and some sneak peeks into some of Expedition 12B’s projects.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Meet the Squadron

20 degrees on the thermometer and a 3 minute walk to the office – Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer would have their work cut out trying to find a better location. But it’s not all plain sailing for the sterling group of men and women who comprise Team Fieldbase. The past days have seen them busier than banana salesmen at a monkey convention as they continue their preparations for 12B. Time to meet the squadron:

The ‘veteran’ of the team, Julian is our Country Director and started working for Raleigh in 2001. Aside from providing Stephen Fry-esque tidbits of knowledge, he will be liaising with our project partners, focusing on our external relationships, project planning, funding and business development.

No-nonsense Country Programme Manager Ross has worked his way up through the ranks since 2006, previously working as Logistics Manager, Expeditions Leader and Accounts.  His main responsibility lies in the delivery of the expedition programmes and management of our volunteer managers; running and organizing all expeditions.

All action man and Country Expedition Manager Pedro Rodriguez/Peter Rogers is responsible for the day-to-day running of all expeditions, and ensures that everything here at HQ runs smoothly. He spends his days making sure that all project managers are fully trained, knowing exactly where to go and what to do at what time.

The unsung heroes, and lifeline of the team are the logistics cohort; the tireless workers who ensure the venturers have all the necessary kit, are properly fed, and take care of the vehicle maintenance to enable the delivery of supplies mid-phase. Grafting away behind the scenes for all hours, they perhaps don’t get the credit they deserve, but the simple fact is that Raleigh couldn’t function without them. They are Claire, Dave, Tim, and Kelly – workhorses and decent folk to boot, everyone one of 'em.

Jayshree is our administrator overseeing a whole range of nitty gritty details ranging from passports to insurance, and making sure all our documents are up to date and the Project Managers are suitably organized. 

Holly is our Accountant, managing the budget and ‘keeping our house in order’. From preparing project budgets, to auditing expenses, Holly also runs the Raleigh shop – stocked full of home-comforts ready for changeover between phases – and currency exchange. 

Charged with bring Raleigh to life is our photographer Ale. She will be ensuring that everyone leaves with unforgettable memories, as well as making sure that you lot back home can get a glimpse into life at Fieldbase, and out on project. 

Working closely alongside Ally is the Communications Officer, yours truly dear readers, I go by the name of David. I’ll be attempting to find words to describe the multitude of magnificent work our venturers will be undertaking on Expedition 12B, keeping you at home updated via the blog.

Finally there is Splatches the dog, unofficial Raleigh Costa Rica/Nicaragua mascot who enjoys the enviable balance of no work and all play. I’m considering applying for her role next time….

(Team photo to follow imminently - Ally is away in San Jose) 

Sport of Kings
Tim seeing to the Bravos
After-dinner Anecdotes
Business Time
Logs Team

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Warm Welcome

Bienvenidos! Welcome to the blog for Raleigh Expedition 12B!

Over the coming weeks we hope you think of us as a companion as comforting as a cup of tea (Earl Grey), your favourite teddy bear, or the soothing tones of an Attenborough nature-narrative; we’ll be here to provide you with a one-stop destination for all the news regarding Raleigh’s first expedition of 2012 in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The advance team of project managers arrived in Turrialba this morning, and fieldbase is a hive of activity as they get to grips with their new roles, settle in to their new surroundings, and put the finishing touches to what is sure to be an unbelievable adventure.

More information will be forthcoming as we meet the team in the coming days, until then.

Pura Vida!