Sunday, 15 April 2012

Expedition 12B: A summary

10 weeks ago some 110 venturers from across the globe arrived at Turrialba Headquarters in eager anticipation of the experience of a lifetime. They departed yesterday, teary eyed and joyful after an unbelievable journey, the memories of which they will cherish forever. Quantifying the work done, from the stones lifted, kilometres trudged on trek to the tortilla eating record for a phase (107 in case you're wondering), would be no easy task, so I hope the following serves adequately as a summary of an unforgettable 3 months spent in Costa Rica and Nicaragua

Located in the heart of some of the most remote communities in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the community projects offered a unique opportunity to volunteers to work alongside members of those communities to build basic facilities such as schools, community centres and water supply systems. The Venturers also learned to overcome communication, language and cultural barriers while living with families who only speak Spanish.
All the projects were formed with the aim to improve the quality of life and to provide valuable resources for very poor communities. The projects were structured in a way to ensure that Raleigh had optimum impact on the communities through improvement of the quality of life and providing valuable resources for current and future generations.

In San Jose, the community centre built over 2 phases will provide a focal point for the 29 families who call it home. Over in El Portillo, 29 eco-latrines gives sanitation to 35 families and in La Naranjita, 5 adobe brick houses were built from approximately 1800 bricks as a replacement for those damaged in the storms at the latter end of 2011. Finally, in Dorbata, the school built in phase 2 will provide not only an educational establishment for the 20 children in the community, but also a meeting point for the weekly Saturday get-together.

Working alongside SINAC, the Costa Rican National System of Conservation Areas, and based in Costa Rica’s National Parks, the environmental groups lived and worked alongside the park rangers, helping to maintain and improve the national parks. In addition to their conservation work, venturers were given talks on environmental awareness in Costa Rica by rangers. Around 27% of Costa Rica is protected territory and Raleigh’s environmental projects reflect the country’s commitment to support their unique environment and natural habitat.

The projects are genuinely important in helping to preserve natural resources and habitats and protect important species of plants and animals, as well as improving facilities in order to generate much-needed income from eco-tourism.

In Carara, venturers renovated 350m of trail with sand and stone, painted a macaw-mural at the main entrance and commenced work on a new path in a park used by some 30,000 visitors a year. In the south, La Amistad's Los Gigantes del Bosque (Giants of the Forest) 1.8km path received an overhaul, whilst in the north, Volcan Tenorio's path and staircase down to the surreal Laguna Azul received a similar treatment - and was visited by 700 visitors during the Easter Holy Week. Up on the slopes of Volcan Barva, 2.5km of pipeline and footpath were cleared, allowing access and water to the ranger's who protect this stunning ecosystem from poachers.

Each trek covered over 250 kilometres in 19 days. Venturers braved the elements, crossed rivers and camped in remote wilderness, jungle or community buildings, learning navigation, camping and survival skills along the way. The 4am starts, tough climbs and up to ten hours trekking a day with over 20kg on their backs tested the Venturers both physically and mentally. Whilst completing the trek, each member explores their own strength and determination, teamwork abilities and a level of fitness some never knew they had.

After having risen to the challenge, the trek groups were rewarded with incredible views, abundant wildlife and an enormous sense of achievement upon arrival at the beautiful beaches; truly giving each person the belief they can overcome any future challenge they may face.

From the ups and downs of the Turrisantos trek, the tropical climes of Corcovado and the volcanic vistas of the Miratombo, attempting to explain the phenomenal feat of trekking 19 days through scenes of beauty at every twist and turn is something that many fail to explain, such is the magnitude of the achievement.

Congratulations to all involved, may you be successful in whatever you pursue next.

Expedition 12B, out


Saturday, 14 April 2012

I Try To Say Goodbye And I Choke

Ah Macy Gray, how you sum up this moment so perfectly...

As the buses bounced their way along the dusty track out of CATIE, be it to the departure lounge of Juan Santamaria International or the picture book shores of the Caribbean at Puerto Viejo, everyone agreed on one thing, it had been a truly magical end to Expedition 12B.

The past few days have passed in a whirlwind and has yet again been action packed. While the feasts in the form of a welcome back BBQ and last night’s dinner do gave an opportunity to regain the calories (especially the trekkers), it was truly a privilege to witness a spectacular interactive singing performance by Don Brigido, President of La Cooperativa Juan Francisco Paz Silva, a truly inspirational character who had the whole group singing along to ‘Nicaragua, Nicaraguita’, ‘Soy Puro Pinolero’, ‘Hijos de Mais’ and an incredibly well received, and raucously echoed ‘Aqua’ song.

Expedition 12B has been a truly unforgettable experience, one that will live long in the memory of all those involved. There’s been good times and bad, laughter and tears, moments of despair which are ultimately overcome by incredible achievements and everyone from venturers, to VMs to Fieldbase staff can be truly proud of their endeavours Here at Turri HQ it’s the calm after the storm as 12B’s achievements over the past 10 weeks begin to sink in, I’ll post them in a blog as soon as they’re compiled.

In the meantime, on behalf of all of us at Turrialba Fieldbase, I’d like to thank you all for your messages of support for your loved ones. They are incredibly well received and provide real morale boosts be it at the end of a rain soaked day on trek, mattocking pathways in the jungle, or mixing cement for a community centre. So thanks. You guys rock.

Check back soon for Ale’s fitting finale of phase three’s photos!

Friday, 13 April 2012

La Naran-three-ta

With 5 Nicaraguan families settled into their new homes and a school room freshly painted, Zulu 7 are returning to Costa Rica triumphant.

It’s been a tear-jerking end to fantastic phase and with our host families left behind in La Naranjita, we return with a humbled outlook and renewed sense of the agricultural, non-materialistic way of life so dominant in this area with Sav’s video blog and a multitude of journals at our disposal, the memories had by all on this phase are precious and unforgettable.

Perhaps most importantly the opening ceremony of the houses was a moment that summed up the entire phase. The honest gratitude expressed by the community for our work was extremely touching. Having worked for 3 whole phases with them, special recognition was rightfully geared towards PM Fiona, who is eveidently an honorary member of the La Naranjita establishment, assisted by her near perfect Spanish.

Fiona’s connections aided us immensely in our adventures outside the community which became apparent when we found ourselves bound for Esteli on the once-daily chicken bus. A couple of hours later, having been thoroughly battered around by the dusty, bumpy roads we arrived. A trip to a museum and a quick look around the shops allowed for an enjoyable day. Massive shame about the torrential downpour...

A quick bot-fly update; Lulu is pleased as punch with the results from her scalp – so much so that she’s successfully used her own traumatic experience to remove not one, but three of the pests from Mark’s sun-kissed pins! She may not be able to use a hammock, or walk down a hill with any sort of gradient without falling, but when it comes to medicine she knows her stuff!

In other news we’ve been lucky enough to celebrate 2 Raleigh birthdays. Both Diana and Sam reached the ripe age of 19 which gave La Naranjita the chance to show us how to party and really celebrate in style. With matching pineapple cakes, an enormous bonfire and local DJ Terry on the decks (cd player), Zulu 7 have enjoyed 2 fantastic evenings with the entire community. We even got a talented performance on the guitar from Tim – he kept that quiet!

Stay safe, we’ll see you soon xx

Zulu 3: A letter home

Dear Mum and Dad

Well I made it through trek in one piece. The rumours that you heard were true, in bits it was indeed traumatic and at times I cried, in fact at one point I thought I wouldn’t make it...but I did! And my God it was incredible!

The team made it so special; I don’t think it would have been half the experience without them. As we all sat on the shore of the lagoon the other night we all talked about the mammoth trek that we had just completed but a few hours earlier, and there were some clear highlights for us all.

Firstly there was the night we spent on top of the mountain at the military base, witnessing the most stunning sunset.
Then there were the awesome views, the endless laughs and the ‘volcanic eruption’ we all watched. The last three days of our trek were so amazing that I can barely put it into words. Seeing the splendour of Cerro Negro; climbing it; and running down, was just one of the best experiences of my life. Then sleeping under the most astonishing crater before hiking down to the lagoon and swimming in a crater lake made it all the more worthwhile.

I won’t tell you all the stories now though, I’ll be seeing you very soon!

All our love

Maria, Liam, Ciara, Dara, Rob, Ben, Sophie, Ravenna, Brayan, Gustavo, Danny, Alex, Alex, Adri, Valeria. Gaz and Simon


Carara: The latest Rumble from the Jungle

Here we are once again, one week later, and yes we have good news to report. Firstly we are still 13 and brave intrepid venturers, but secondly and more importantly we have finished the path. That’s right, 400m of jungle pathway have been leaf raked, mattocked, lined with the finest rocks, laid with the softest sand, and re-raked again for that silky finish that every visitor expects when they visit the jungle. In Vicki’s words – ‘We smashed it’. It made it an extra super special experience to have Oscar our fave Ranger working alongside us at the finishline. After the necessary snapshots had been taken with our path we spent the afternoon basking in our own glory at our own zoo which had some new additions. These included the following: a swarm of wasps which due to Josie’s phobia meant she had dinner around the corner, a new trail of ants, and a most importantly a new lizard pursued by Hanko and James – Michael, aka Crocodile Dundee, just picked it up.

The heat as ever is hot, really quite hot, which meant that when the rain came it was a communal shower as we frolicked in our swimmers, oblivious to the fact people on the main road 20m away could see all. As the sun rose on Thursday morning, Thea our day leader began forming plans for something new, so in true Raleigh style we started on a new path. We have also attained a new universal nickname from our very own Nicaraguan duo Michael and Uriel who now affectionately refer to both male and female members as – baby. “You can do it baby”.

The biggest date on everybody’s calendars to date is James’ birthday, not just because it was our first full day off, but because it also meant THE BEACH. The day went as follows: Big Raleigh until 7.00AM, breakfast of porridge and raisins, some say the only way to start your day, followed swiftly by a visit to the crocodiles and a trek to THE BEACh by Josie and Erika who effectively jogged the whole way. There was sand and sun and PMs A-Bomb and Vicki soon had their factor 50 on, books/crosswords out and at last rested their weary bones. Little did we know that back at HQ, PM Amanda and Clare were preparing the zoo with balloons, bunting and banners for the forthcoming festivities. Back at the beach, Azelle sniffed out burgers and rounded the group for a warm up feast, and after some final Baywatch style sea entries we returned to camp. That evening was truly fantastic, a feast of jelly, paella, tomato and avocado salad, followed by a birthday cake and the main event – Chubby Baby – (thanks Michael and Uriel) – fitting as many marshmallows in your mouth and saying those golden words. A keenly contested final between Hanko and Josie ensued, the latter’s dictation of chubby baby whilst juggling 8 marshmallows giving her the crown. What a Birthday!

Work on Path Dos continues in much the same fashion, with Oscar always around to help, none of us can truly find the right words to thank him for everything he’s done for us, including a night time guided tour of one of the trails; it will truly be a real shame to leave him and the jungle on Wednesday. So from Zulu 4 as ever, we will continue smashing it until Monday, when we enjoy more beach time at Playa Hermosa for well earned rest.

Pura Vida!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Donde diablos esta Clarita???

Some of you might have seen the internet phenomenon ´Where the hell is Matt?´... well, Logistics Manager, Clarita, decided to make her own version for 12B... take a look!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Roadtrip to end all roadtrips!

The last roadtrip of the expedition has been absolutely awesome. Three of the fieldbase team, Claire, aka Clarita, Jay and myself, Kelly have taken to the road once more on an epic journey to Nicaragua. With us we took blog messages, food and equipment requests and treats for Zulus 6,7,3 and 5 along with birthday cards and greeting for two special Project Managers, Fran and Walshy, who were lucky enough to have their birthdays on phase.
Our first stop was Leon where it hit a scorching 41 degrees and we, accompanied by Julian the Country Director, completed a number of recces on local hospitals. We checked their cleanliness and treatments they offer so that should the worst happen and we have to take an individual to hospital we can be rest assured they will be in capable hands.
From Leon we drove to El Portillo to visit Zulu 6 working on their latrine building project. The group were in very good spirits when we arrived and were keen for us to start our visit with a short climb to a nearby hill where we watched an amazing sunset over looking the village.
Whilst in El Portillo we were lucky enough to stay with local families. The generosity and accommodating nature of these families cannot be put into words and we thoroughly enjoyed the rice, beans, tortillas, plantain, coffee and fruit we were given at meal times.
Following our stay with Zulu 6 where Julian had to leave the roadtrip for meetings, we, the intrepid explorers, trekked off to the next village to catch a bus to La Naranjta to see Zulu 7 on their house building project. Upon arrival after a bumpy ride on a local ‘chicken bus’ yes you’ve guessed it, live chickens were often stowed in the overhead racks, we were met by a very welcoming Zulu 7. They put on a party in the local school with dance offs and many renditions of Ai Se Eu Te Pego a firm favourite for all on expedition and made sure we felt well and truly part of the group even if this did involve us helping them with their building work. But stamping mud for house walls and sticking it on the walls is great fun!
After Zulu 7 we headed to Esteli where we checked into a hostel and were lucky enough to meet Keiner and some past Raleigh venturers who had been conducting a selection weekend for host country venturers. More hospital recces greeted us the following day and then it was time to meet Ross, the Country Programme Manager where he traded his landie for a local bus back to Costa Rica and we drove to San Martin number one to meet Zulu 3 on the Miratombo trek.

Zulu 3 were a very happy group, not too affected by blisters and other ailments and all very positive. We spent the night with them and yes, the next morning, we did get up at trek o’clock, 3am to you and me and left at first light having left the food drop with the group and also some much appreciated sweets.
A long day of driving greeted us but a boarder crossing and a few bumpy roads later we arrived at Zulu 5 in Volcan Tenerio. As soon as we arrived venturers came running up to us with balloons and we settled into a movie night after a dinner of masa made by some expert venture cooks. The next day we helped show tourists around the national park as Easter weekend brought so many tourists the group were given a well earned rest from path building for health and safety reasons.

Then finally we reluctantly headed back to fieldbase to prepare for the venturers’ return on Thursday.

Road Trip: Bravo 1 Visits Zulus 3,5,6 & 7

Zulu 1 have finished their trek!!!!

18 days of trekking and the result is in. It may come as no surprise to hear it, final score Zulu 1- Turisantos trek 0.
After negotiating the jungle of Barbilla National Park Zulu 1 launched an assault through the heat of Costa Rica taking on hill and vale in pursuit of the Pacific.

Some of the views have been simply spectacular and highlights numerous; the wooded vistas of Tapanti National Park are a close second to the ascent of Cerro Bares to witness a breathtaking sunrise sweep from San Jose to the Pacific.

The final destination of Punta Judas is something else. A private beach, hammocks, glorious sunshine, the ocean, coconuts… the list could go on. Needless to say credit to the whole group for their endeavors, approximately 250Km of trekking completed. R & R in such stunning surrounds is a just reward.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Zulu 6 - Summer Lovin' it!

Now we have been in El Porillo for over three weeks and nearly completed twenty four eco-latrines. In the past week we've grown in confidence in our construction skills which has sped up our progress. The locals seem to be please with our work and will complete the latrines that we don't have time to finish. On the work-site we've had a lot of fun working with the Maestro de Obra and the family whose latrine we are building.

Slowly our houses have filled up over the week as more and more family members returned home to celebrate Semana Santa (Easter) an important religious festival for the Nicaraguans. On Friday they served us a traditional fish soup which we enjoyed in the company of the whole group at the school.

Saturday afternoon we set off for our two day trip which began with spending the night in San Juan de Limay, a relatively large town for this area. We spent the evening listening to the catholic service at the church which was very popular amongst the locals. It was very impressive although some of us were more interested in the local plantains being sold. On Sunday we set off for the trip which was meant to lead us to a beautiful waterfall but we only got as far as the river where we swam and ate lunch. After a joyful ride in the chicken bus we returned to Limay supper which included the usual rice and beans. Monday morning began with a early uphill walk back to El Portillo which we all enjoyed as it reminded of our trekking days.

We are now coming to the end of our time in El Portillo and preparations are underway for our farewell activities. We are helping our families with the cooking for our leaving party tonight which for some of us has included witnessing the killing of one of the family’s chickens. Tonight our musical skills will also be demonstrated as we perform our national anthem and a ‘cultural song’ (which we have chosen to be “Summer Lovin'” from Grease) to the entire village. With special guests including the Mayors of San Juan de Limay and Achuapa. It is set to be a great evening and the icing on the cake to end our time in Nicaragua.

Finally, Tess Louisa and Max are learning a traditional folk dance which is to be performed to the entire field base upon our return to Costa Rica. Dressed in the traditional white, red and green outfits it is an eagerly anticipated event.

Lots of love, Zulu 6

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Mud, Mud, glorious "Lodo"!

“Lodo”, “adobe” y “muchos pintos” are a daily occurrence for Zulu 7. We’re powering ahead with our building work, getting stuck in with the mud-stomping and, having completed the brick layering, are rendering the walls and fitting the roofs.

Our agricultural community at Miraflor National Park have provided ample opportunity for fun outside the building sites. Perhaps most notably, we’ve enjoyed our trips to the tranquil waterfall which, in light of the alternative which involves balancing a bucket of water behind a plastic sheet at the bottom of the garden, has proven itself a an extremely refreshing showering opportunity. So much so, that a bottle of Sian’s eco-friendly shampoo had to be rescued by Ting after Jess’ particularly unsuccessful throw from the top – thankfully the shampoo survived. As I’m sure you can imagine, after a day’s work under the pounding Nicaraguan heat, a light swim on the calm waters between the dry sun-scorched hills of this area is the ultimate treat enjoyed by all.

We’ve also been fortunate enough to attend two parties in the school room – special mention must go to Jerry, our Nicaraguan DJ whose unique remixes fill the dance-floor with ease, Sav for single-handedly boosting the Brit’s poor dancing reputation and Pamela who can literally dance Salsa with her eyes closed.

The phase has not been without its dramas however. Arguably most dramatic, was Sam and Rob’s cake-making incident. Their Nicaraguan mother, clearly delighted at the boy’s enthusiasm in the kitchen, agreed to their creation of a British classic; the Victoria sponge. With Diana, their female housemate working hard on building the houses outside and only an open fire at their disposal, the cake was tragically smouldered. The burnt remains were later spotted being fed to the dogs – we hate to think what impression we’ve given of our great British cuisine!

Stay tuned for further news of our Easter celebrations, Diana and Sam’s birthday, and of course our hopeful completion of the houses

Tourists on Tenorio's trail

Zulu 5 have achieved the impossible and completed the steps to one waterfall!

As Holy Week has arrived we now have 600 tourists per day visiting the park so our days are spent frantically directing eager tourists them away from the precious hot springs and ensuring they aren’t armed with machetes or too much food.

However, amongst the chaos we have found time to unwind. Karaoke night at the only local restaurant revealed some hidden talents. Girls vs Boys sing offs comprised of multiple Michael Jackson classics and some 50 Cent thrown into the mix. Yet the local ranger, nicknamed ‘Rambo’ due to his macho looks, stole the show and surprised us all with his obsession for classic love songs. Danny ‘Flaves’ and Valeria also impressed us all with their salsa dancing.
Film nights have been popular here in Volcan Tenorio and have included cultural choices such as ‘Scarface’.

The arrival of the Bravo team was greeted with wild celebrations… and a pub quiz hosted by Fosca, Elliot and Isvan. Team 1 (comprising Flaves, Lisa, Eika, Roisin, Harol, Jay and Clarita) achieved a well deserved victory but only after a tense debate to clarify Costa Rica’s deadliest snake!

After the excitement from the quiz had died down, the competitive atmosphere was reignited by an old fashioned game of musical chairs. As players dropped out, it soon became heated and, after Yssa broke a chair, it was only Flaves and Fosca left standing. Yet despite Flaves’ desperate attempts, Fosca’s skill and speed proved too much for him.

The wildlife have wisely taken a back seat during Holy week, although we have adopted a dog named ‘Zulu’, Valeria hosted a funeral for the bird ‘Pajarito Zulu 5’ and the toad still roams the showers.

That’s all from sunny (sorry again X-Ray 6)!
Zulu 5, Volcan Tenorio

Friday, 6 April 2012

Zulu Group update

Unbelievably the end of Expedition 12B is just around the corner. Next Thursday will see the groups return to fieldbase for the final time... but before that here is a Easter round-up of all the goings on in Raleigh Costa Rica & Nicaragua

Zulu 1:
Currently steaming their way through Costa Rica, Zulu 1 have: trudged through the eastern jungles of Chirripo, travelled through indigenous territories (meeting the local Cabecar people), reached Hacienda Tiquirres - one of the highest points of Costa Rica (3000m) and are currently making their way to Cerro Bares (Bares Mountain) where they will be treated to one of the country's iconic vistas - a mountain-top view of the Pacific Ocean!

Zulu 2
Having made their way down from relatively high lands, walked along the Panamanian border and visited the breathtaking La Amistad National Park, Zulu 2 are entering the final stretch of their trek. Tomorrow, they enter the tropical milieu that is Corcovado National Park where they can expect to encounter anteaters, the four species of monkey and, if they're lucky, the mighty Puma. Already in high spirits, the group's mood has been lifted by the arrival of photographer Ale and accountant Holly for the final few days of the trek.

Zulu 3
Despite, previously claiming to be enduring the hardships of trek it appears that Zulu 3 are living in the lap of luxury! In addition to, enjoying the cooling effects of a rare thunderstorm (a very welcome respite from the heat of Nicaragua), the group has reported that last night they had a BATH!! In other news, Rob has joined the group (having been unable to participate from the start due to, a now healed, infected insect bite) on the ascent of Volcan Cerro Negro.

Zulu 4
(Scroll down for a full update from Zulu 4)

Zulu 5
Persistant rain hasn't stopped Zulu 5 from doing some 'storming' work on their path and gaining much kudos from the rangers in the process. The hoardes of tourists visiting Volcan Tenorio for Easter week will give the group a chance to witness the fruits of their labour as the visitors tramp up and down their path in search of the park's hidden gems. Tourist income helps pay the salaries  of the park rangers who maintain and protect the park so the groups work is rightly valued by all and sundry.

Zulu 6
Later today, Zulu 6 will be challenging the locals to a game of baseball - it may be Nicaragua's national sport but we here at field base have faith that the Achuapa group will do us proud! As it is Easter, the group have shut down operations and are learning about local Easter traditions (including eating a delicious fish supper tonight). In many parts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica the Easter week is religiously so most workers/industries/shops shut down for the period - akin to what happens in the UK at Christmas.

Zulu 7
...but completely contradicting what we've just said about Easter, Zulu 7 are CONTINUING work on their project. The group and the locals are so keen to get things finished that they have sacrificed themselves for the greater good. They will be painting a mural on the local pre-school building as well as putting the finishing touches onto one of the houses. To be fair, they did have Tuesday off in Esteli when they visited the Heroes and Martyrs Museum and the local cigar factory so they're not totally overdoing it on the work front.

That's all for now, but don't forget to stay tuned for more blog updates from the groups before the final send off blog in just over a week's time!

Jungle Massive - the view from Zulu 4

We 13 brave and intrepid Venturers/Explorers/PMs have begun our journey together in the highest of spirits.  Our task you may ask? To provide the legions of tourists, and their pristine white Nike Air trainers, a path as amazing as the jungle we have had the good fortune of living in for the past week. After we arrived tired and weary from our three hour bus ride, Oscar our personal ranger, showed us to our jungle accommodation – a cosy clearing situated just 50m from the main road and our main base, or as we’ve come to call it, ‘The Zoo’ due to the wide range of wildlife preferring to live in our kitchen rather than the jungle. Oscar then proceeded to show us the work of the previous Alpha and X-Ray groups, at which point we vowed to do Raleigh International proud and make our Zulu path just that bit better.  After we were shown our 400m path the rain began. With only half of our basher beds made Hanko, James, George, Michael, Uriel, Thea and Josie declined the opportunity to have their first jungle shower/bath, little did we know it would be a while before the next opportunity.

As the first proper day began Zulu 4 rose to a confusing melange of sounds; from one side the peaceful hum of the jungle, from the other Costa Rican traffic. We stumbled bleary eyed to our mess tins for porridge.  After completing jungle camp we set out to begin work on our path in earnest, under the capable leadership of James and the ever watchful eye of Oscar the ranger.  Due to some early logistical issues (i.e. where would we get sand and stones from) work started slowly, but soon picked up pace as our combined intellect ground slowly into 3rd gear (the heat preventing 4th) and we figured out how to dig sand, carry sand and put sand on the path.  The rocks followed the same pattern. Then, like 11 well oiled combine harvesters we ploughed on.  Everyday has yielded more and more progress, as our fluency in path building improves.  20ms turned quickly into 30ms, then 40ms, although A-Bomb does his best to distract us by pointing out every monkey that comes close and Michael leads off American tourists (of the female variety) with the invitation “come on ladies” in his best Spanglish.

Obviously we are fuelled by fine cuisine (bar the crackers and refried beans) produced ‘cada noche’.  The pure culinary genius of Erika, Josie, Thea and Vicki (take note they are all female) combined with our fresh fruit and veg allowance has meant such delicacies as Brushetta, Guacamole and something vaguely resembling Ratatouille and much, much more has been eaten.

Each day we have taken it in turns to guard our zoo in morning, afternoon and evening shifts.  As well as being a welcome break from the searing heat of the jungle it has also meant the Hanko and James could run around like little girls whilst being chased by our resident lizard (yet to be house trained).  A yes there was screaming!  Also it means Claire can read in relative peace and quiet, but we do our best to divert her attention.  As we enter the hottest month in Carara (the other extreme to Amanda’s 19 days of rain on the previous phase) the heat is, no surprises here, verging on unbearable, although Vicki is lapping it up (tan is obviously her number one priority).  However after work the watering hole has been there for us, like a faithful Labrador, away from the beady eyes of the tourists lest we be mistaken for beasts of the jungle. It is here we may finally relax.

Each evening has been more eventful than the last.  George has unearthed a new found passion for cards, but is yet to win (something James can associate with now that Poker has been aptly renamed “how Goose is going to lose all his money”).  Our hard work thus far is definitely paying off as we have already surpassed the half way mark and each passerby has told us what superb work they believe we are doing.  This means a lot to us, as well as willing us on to do those extra 5 metres each day.

So from Zulu 4 out here in the jungle its goodbye and Pura Vida!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Hola desde El Portillo!

Today is Monday and after living with our families for almost a week we are all settling in well and getting used to the Nicaraguan way of life. While eating lots of traditional food we are all practicing our Spanish followed by giving birth to loads of food babies! We have been lucky enough to try some of the pigs and chickens that were running around our houses a few days earlier. Some of the venturers had the opportunity to milk a cow and as a reward have tasted the fruits of their labour – delicious ‘arroz con leche’ (rice pudding).

After a slow start on the building of the new eco-latrines, work is now going well and we are developing our construction skills – taught by the locals. We are all now nearly experts in cement mixing and brick-laying, so we have a plan B for when we get home. The eco-latrines we are building are more environmentally friendly than traditional long drop latrines. They are more sustainable in the long term as they provide compost for the soil and prevent contamination of the water.

Every afternoon, after work, the kids gather around the school excited for their English lessons taught by the venturers. they are keen to learn all kinds of subjects but 'ninja' seems to gain the most interest. They are all very interested in all us 'cheles' and use us as climbing frames, teddy bears, and they love tickling.

Much Love to everyone at home Zulu 6

Zulu 5 - Volcan Tenorio

Zulu 5 have been in the depth of Volcan Tenorio for almost a week and a half now and we are still standing!

We have practically sifted the Sahara and moved mountains of sand along treacherous paths as we fight a race against time in preparation for the swarm of tourists that will descend on the park in Holy Week. 

Hours have also been spent fixing our temperamental jungle camp. Fosca discovered that the bamboo holding her basha bed together was not as strong as expected when she awoke at 3am… on the floor! PM Daniel 'Flaves' Saborio has done copious amounts of reconstruction work, receiving a few injuries along the way. 

However, amidst the hard work we've soothed our aching bones in the hot springs, visited the rich sugar cane and gaped in awe at the magnificent waterfall that lies at the heart of the jungle. 

Tourists are not the only thing to infest this place; Jay and Elliot were joined by a Coral snake during their afternoon cigarette break, Fleur, Lisa and Yssa spotted the famously ugly tapir (which is on the brink of extinction), sloths and monkeys have graced our camp and toads have made themselves at home in our showers. 

Our evenings are spent with Valeria in her element hosting aerobics classes’, intense games of monopoly deal and sleeping bag races in which Istvan remains unbeatable. 

We Zulu 5 will keep you updated on our adventures in sunny Volcan Tenorio (sorry X-Ray 6)