Sunday, 30 September 2012

12L – get to know your Fieldbase team #2, it's logistics

Katie our logs manager
Katie "the Vass"
Katie Vass - 5 things that might not know about Katie, our Logs Manager
1.    She is heading over to check out Brazil when she leaves Costa Rica
2.    Just before she left the UK she had a temporary job with an MP
3.    Born in Canada and spent the first 10 years of her life there
4.    She loves bananas – so that’s handy in Costa Rica where they are plentiful
5.    She combines a love of travel and photography -  a snappy traveller

Tracey, logs support
Tracey "Moggers"
Tracey Moggeridge - 5 things that might not know about Tracey, our Logs support
1.    She appeared in a video with 80s pop icons “Big Country”
2.    She worked in Beijing during the Olympics there
3.    She has an addiction to marzipan, “mazapan” in Spanish, she’s looked it up and is already on the hunt
4.    She has an irrational phobia of daddy long legs, even more so than spiders
5.    She has completed a marathon, and is still running here at Fieldbase

Phil, our logs support
"Grizzly" Phil
Phil Wilson - 5 things that might not know about Phil, our Logs support
1.    He has visited over 74 countries, and counting...
2.    He is left handed
3.    He hails from New Zealand – where apparently there is a Marmite shortage “marmageddon” (perhaps one of the reasons he’s never there...)
4.    He has a phobia of really tall people
5.    He has an ambition to be "King of Pong", referring to table tennis rather than unwashed t-shirts or long-drop toilets

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The magic sorting hat of Turrialba

Each PM, as nervous as any new wizard to Hogwarts, took the stage to don the sorting hat of project selection.  How will the hat pronounce?  Will it be environmental, community or a trek?  Who will be your team mate/s?  Only the magic hat can decide.
Jae receiving the pronouncement of the sorting hat
Jae receiving pronouncement from the sorting hat
In a Harry Potter/Ready, Steady, Cook mixed metaphor the first task for the new teams was to create a pudding with store cupboard ingredients in 20 minutes - marks awarded for taste and presentation of the dish.
Pedro and Barney judging
Pedro and Barney - judging pudding
Alpha 2 succeeded on taste - with David (call me Heston) and Claudia presenting a tropical flapjack.  Alpha 1 took presentation to extravaganza levels by bringing bunny ears and gold sequins to the table.  Fieldbase scored for team effort with Phil being the actual table, Joss being the waiter and the girls providing the crunchy bottom, fruity layer, velvety chocolate and zesty topping of their Fieldbase Fantasy.
Alpha 5 in the dance off
Alpha 5 in the dance off
It all had to be decided with a dance off and Fieldbase pipped the competition at the post.  There may have been strength in numbers, and we have had an extra week to bond - but personally I put it down to sheer skill and creativity.

So, now fully bonded over cooking and dancing, the teams are assembled and ready to go.  The running order for the Project Groups is as follows:
Alpha 1 - Coast to Coast Trek, Costa Rica
Nicole, Dave and Natalie
This Trek has taken various forms over the past few years, but Expedition 12L will feature a particularly exciting version, starting at the Caribbean Sea and ending on the Pacific Coast.  Crossing a continent as well as a country.
Alpha 1
Nicole, Dave and Natalie - Alpha 1

Alpha 2  - Miratombo Trek, Nicaragua 
David and Claudia
Starting in the far north of Nicaragua, near to the Honduran border, the Miratombo Trek meanders through the diverse landscapes of Esteli and Leon.
Alpha 2
David and Claudia - Alpha 2
Alpha 3 - Environmental, starting in Hermosa, Costa Rica
Jim, Clare and Tracy H

Working to preserve the turtle populations of Hermosa beach, this project will collect turtle eggs, ensure that they hatch safely and release the turtles back into the wild where they have the best chance of survival.  This team will spend the second half of their phase at Carara National Park (see below).
Alpha 3
Jim, Clare and Tracy - Alpha 3
Alpha 4 - Environmental, starting in Carara National Park, Costa Rica
Pauline, Jae and Sarah
Starting in the Carara National Park this group will work to clear the Lago Meandrica trail, previously inaccessible in the rainy season.  This work will enable many more visitors to the park, and therefore increase the revenue for the Park and allowing them to continue their other environmental work. This team will spend the second half of their phase at Hermosa (see above). Where they will be joined by Charlie.
Alpha 4
Jae, Sarah, Pauline and Charlie in the background - Alpha 4
Alpha 5 - Achuapa water project, Nicaragua
Sarah,  Florian and Vic
This project group will work with the local community of Los Loros in Achuapa to develop a gravity-feed water system to bring clean and safe drinking water to 40 families living there.
Alpha 5
Sarah, Florian and Vic - Alpha 5

Friday, 28 September 2012

If you go down to the woods today...

... you’d meet 12L’s volunteer managers having their trek and jungle camp training.

We all got our bags packed and thought that they seemed heavy but manageable; sleeping bag, mossie net, spare shoes, spare pants – all the essentials.  Then we were divided into teams and given the rest of the kit to divide out; tents, trangias, four washing-up bowls, shovel, machete, bleach, fuel, refried beans etc – suddenly a whole lot heavier and a whole lot less manageable.
Heading off
Having allocated roles and read the map we headed off, heavy laden and an hour late.  The first meeting place (which we did all find – hooray for navigation training) was a very rickety, disused railway bridge.  
Cue Risk Assessment training.
Dave assessing the risk
The question “Would you cross this bridge?” divided the group fair and square down the middle with some screaming “hell yes!” and just as many “you have got to be kidding me!” I guess that’s why Raleigh has a process for sorting this kind of thing out. Having established that risk of death was beyond negligible we turned tail and started walking again.

Camping out that night we all got a bit closer to our fellow team mates and got as much sleep as we could for our 4.30 wake up call.  The next rendezvous was a river crossing.
Jae, Ruth and Jim crossing the river
Water safety is a biggie.  Again it was an opportunity to get close, with the recommended way of getting across the water being in a huddle.

Then on to jungle camp, and the introduction to basha beds or basha hammocks.  For the uninitiated I will explain what these are but if you stay with this blog for a few months I’m sure that you will become very well acquainted with the term.  Basically you have a stretcher like piece of canvas supported by bamboo poles at each end which is then held between two bamboo tripods (basha bed) or roped to two trees (basha hammock).  Then for the home comforts, something to help you stay dry and something to keep you bite free.
Basha hammock
Apparently a basha hammock is the most comfortable thing ever if you get it right and the very least comfortable if you get it wrong.  No pressure there then.  With two hours to have their first attempt, and the night, tiredness and hunger closing in not everyone was convinced that they were going to be rewarded with a good night’s sleep – and to be fair some of them were right.  Being suspended in a lop-sided fashion above a nest of ants doesn’t make for a very restful night. But some people slept like babies so I guess it’s something that we can aspire to.
Whisky 3 - coming home
Whisky 3 - Clare, Karen, Dave, Sarah and Phil
Team Whisky 3 – Dangling Dave (don’t ask, you had to be there), Clare, Karen, Sarah (Flynny), Phil and Pauline (out of shot) have asked me to make special mention of the fact that their campsite was twice as far as anyone else’s – so if they look particularly downtrodden in the pictures then that is their excuse and they are sticking to it.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Baby you can drive my Land Rover - 12L driver training

Barney doing vehicle check
Anyone who signs up for driving duty here has to get to grips with more than just driving.  When we're out and about it's not going to be much good to rely on the AA or RAC to get us out of trouble.

Martina checking tyre pressure
Every driver needs to be able to perform a vehicle check before setting off to make sure that each of the Land Rovers (Bravos 1, 2, 3 and, wait for it, 4) is in good working order.  But if the unexpected does happen we need to be able to change tyres, jump start the engine and generally get unstuck.  And of course it's useful to have some driving tips to try and avoid getting stuck in the first place.

Tracey, Ruth and Karen route planning
 The other important thing is to make sure you know where you're going - I know it sounds obvious but you'd be surprised.  There's a lot to think about, right hand drive, road signs in Spanish, sometimes we won't be on road at all.  So preparation is king and map reading skills and route planning essential.

After several days of fairly intense learning, practising and assessment the drivers are all ready and raring to go.

Karen ready to drive

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Bienvenido – the 12L project managers have arrived

Our numbers at Fieldbase have increased as the project managers all landed safely in San Jose last night.  They managed to get some brief but well earned sleep before taking the 2 hour bus journey to arrive here this morning.

Warm welcome - Tracy and Ruth They were welcomed by a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of Gallo Pinto cooked by Araceli, our cook and new best friend.  The queue for the shower is going to be a little longer, and the cooking pots are a good deal larger but the buzz about the place is the most noticeable difference. 

Warm welcome - Pauline and Karen
Everyone is catching up with the familiar faces that they met many moons ago on that training weekend in August (can't believe it was only a month ago!).

This week will be spent with various inductions, training and briefing sessions.  We kicked off with the swimming assessment, to understand each person's level and make sure that no-one gets out of their depth.

Swimming assessment
Some training sessions are mostly chalk and talk, 
Pedro teaching radio communication - over
and some will mean getting out there and learning things for ourselves.  
Getting to know the kit
There is a lot to take in and learn but the adventure starts here.

Get to know your 12L Fieldbase team #1

Pedro aka P-rod
Pedro Rodriguez – 5 things that you might not know about Pedro, our Country Programme Manager
1.    If someone was going to play him in a film it would be Ben Kingsley (or Gandhi).
2.    He believes that his jokes stand repetition (we’ve heard the pun about intense/in tents several times
3.    He has been here in Costa Rica working with Raleigh for 4 years in a variety of guises as a volunteer, freelancer and now permanent employee
4.    He used to have long hair – all the way down to his waist
5.    He used to work in PR for the NHS and in that role he met a member of the royal family

Barney "Barnstormer" Harker
Barney Harker - 5 things that you might not know about Barney, our Deputy Programme Manager
1.    He scored a goal in front of a crowd of three thousand football fans – but unfortunately went on to lose the match
2.    Before Raleigh he has worked in youth and community services back in the UK for 10 years
3.    Previously he was a Trek Leader with Raleigh in India
4.    He loves his music and is a DJ in his spare time - his eclectic tastes run all the way from hip hop to heavy metal
5.    He is an avid supporter of Manchester City – so prefers his t-shirts to be pale blue rather than red

Keiner aka K-dawg
Keiner Jimenez - 5 things that you might not know about Keiner, our HCV Co-ordinator
1.    He’s studying computer science at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose
2.    He started as a volunteer with Raleigh in 2009
3.    Over the years he has slept in every room in Fieldbase
4.    Before volunteering with Raleigh he didn’t speak any English – and now he’s fluent
5.    He loves salsa dancing and is our resident, snake-hipped dance teacher

Saturday, 22 September 2012

It's off to work we go...12L advance party

As well as settling down into the Raleigh way of life we've also been getting things ready for the start of the expedition.  Everyone has their own job to do but of course there is much to be said for mucking in and just getting on with it.
Martina stock takingThe start of an expedition is the chance to take stock, both metaphorically and in this case quite literally. We have a small shop at Fieldbase where Venturers can buy essential items and little treats.  We have things like chocolate bars, batteries, some toiletries and of course the fashion statement of the season - The Raleigh T-shirt in a variety of styles and colours.

Ruth stock taking
The other important stock take is in the Bodega - which holds all of our expedition equipment and food stocks.  So when it comes to shovels and the like, we count them all in and we count them all out again.
Karen getting project files up to date

Each project that we are running will need to have the right information to hand when out in the field, things like policies and procedures, insurance documentation and must-have Spanish phrases (for example "Where do we put the pipes?" or "It is hard work but I like it").  We need to make sure that the details for each Venturer are all present and correct, so we know who you are, when you're coming and any information that will be necessary to keep you safe and well whilst you're here.

Venturers will be camping when they come to Fieldbase, our hammering and sawing is going to make sure that the tents, and by extension the Venturers themselves, are watertight.
Fixing tentsDavid fixing tents

This should mean that by the time everyone arrives and goes off on expedition everything will go smoothly and the projects will safe, successful and the best fun ever.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

New kids on the block - 12L

The 12L Costa Rica and Nicaragua advance party has rocked up at Fieldbase to kick things off and get everything spick and span for everyone who’ll be joining us shortly.

A small but happy band, the new arrivals are...
Barney who comes here as Deputy Programme Manager.  The medical team are Sarah, Natalie and David, in charge of pills, potions and paraphernalia.
The medical team

Tracey, Phil and Katie are sorting out the logistics, making sure that all the kit and caboodle is in good working order ready for expedition. Martina is keeping hold of the purse strings and Karen is administrating across an extensive range of spreadsheets.  Joss is getting all David Bailey on us and Ruth is writing the words.

The advance party

We join our Country Programme Manager Pedro, Keiner (a.k.a. K-dawg) who will be looking after the Host Country Venturers (from Costa Rica and Nicaragua) and all supported by our go-to guy, Don Martin.

The plan is that each of the Project Managers will arrive at the weekend, and then all of our lovely Venturers the week after – and 12L will be up to full complement and raring to go.  We can’t wait to meet everyone and get started.  We’ll get the kettle on...Pura Vida!

Boiling kettles

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Coming Soon... Expedition 12L!

Hello All

We are very much looking forward to having you here soon. Preparations are going well and we are working furiously to have everything ready for your arrival. I'm sure you will all have a million questions, but you should find the answers in your welcome pack - if there is anything else you need please do not hesitate to get in touch with David Winterflood at Head Office (or with Jodie for now until Dave gets back from driving a tuk tuk across India on the 23rd!!). Another excellent way to prepare yourself is by having a good look through this blog / watching some of our end of phase slideshows. Undoubtedly, the biggest question you will have will be about the projects you will be doing... so here they are, the projects for Expedition 12L. See you soon!

First of all, the community projects:

Agua Fria, Miraflor, Nicaragua - Disaster Relief Housing Project
The 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 fewer resources and lack access to some basic services such as health and education. On this project the participants will be working on a disaster relief project to rebuild houses in communities affected by hurricanes in the last few months of 2011.

Los Loros / Monte Frio #1, Achuapa, Nicaragua - Water Project
Close to the town of Achuapa, in one of the poorest most remote areas of Nicaragua, Raleigh will be working on a gravity-feed water project to bring clean and safe drinking water to 40 families in two communities. At present the local people get their water from the river which often dries up in summer or comes from polluted water sources. This project is a multi-stakeholder partnership with the local community, the Cooperativa Juan Francisco Paz Silva and Raleigh. The group will be working with the local population to dam small streams, build tanks to collect the water from where it can run through pipes to all the local houses. The benefits of clean water will be felt by many generations to come. The participants will be living directly with families in the village and will help out with their day to day tasks.

Adventure Projects:

The Coast to Coast Trek - Costa Rica
This trek has taken various forms over the past few years, but Expedition 12L features a new outing for this particularly exciting version that starts at the Caribbean Sea and ends on the Pacific Coast. It starts out close to the port of Limon, heading along railway tracks and through small communities to Barbilla National Park. From here the groups walk through Chirripó Indigenous Territory to Bajo Pacuare. They then head to the beautiful Pejibaye river and over to Tapanti National Park. The groups ascend to nearly 3000m through the park before descending down to the Pacific Ocean via the Cerro Dragon peak. The trek ends at the beautiful Playa Palo Seco, where the groups make a final dash into sea having walked an amazing 270km, with each trekker having crossed not only a country but a continent also.

Miratombo Volcanoes Trek - Nicaragua
In the far north of Nicaragua, close to the border with Honduras, this Raleigh group will walk along a mountain ridge through the pine forests above Esteli. From here you will head along a ridge that passes by the Estanzuela waterfall and protected areas going through remote communities. The trek heads towards the Momotombo Volcano from which the trek takes its name before climbing up Volcan El Hoyo with fabulous views over Lake Managua. The trek finishes at the crater lake of Asososca – a beautiful crystal clear lake that was once a volcanic crater.

The Guanacaste Trek - Costa Rica
The setting for this trek covers a huge variety of different ecosystems from cloud forest above 3000 metres down to one of the last remaining stands of primary dry tropical forest left in the Americas. The group will start close to the Arenal volcano and see its lava run down the sides at night before circumnavigating Volcan Tenorio via the Caribbean slopes visiting turquoise waterfalls and moist rainforest. After passing by Volcan Miravalles the group will head to Rincon de la Vieja national park to climb one of the volcanoes and to witness steaming mud pots, geysers, and hot sulphur springs. After several days of walking through the forest you will arrive at the foot of Cerro Cacao in Guanacaste National park where you will steady yourself for a climb up the volcano. The trek will finish at Playa Junquillal to relax by the beautiful calm waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Environmental Projects:

Playa Hermosa – Turtle conservation
Playa Hermosa literally means ‘beautiful beach’ and on this one, thousands of olive ridley and black turtles, plus some rare leatherbacks, come to lay their eggs each year, making it a place of huge ecological interest. The eggs however are at risk from both natural predators and poachers, who steal them to sell.

This project contains three aspects. Firstly, the groups do nightly turtle patrols, collecting the eggs and placing them safely into nests in a hatchery that they build. Secondly, when the eggs are hatched the groups are responsible for releasing the baby turtles into the sea at a safe time to give them the best possible chance of survival and helping to conserve this very important species. The third aspect involves building a protective wall to protect the hatchery from the sea. This is an exciting and very important conservation project that Raleigh have been proud to run for many years with our partners at MINAET.

Carara National Park – The ‘Lago Meandrica’ trail / infrastructure
Carara is one of the oldest national parks in the country and an extremely important one. It holds large areas of primary tropical rainforest with high densities of mammal and bird life – as such it is one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica. The Lago Meandrica trail is one of the most visited trails in the park as there are great possibilities for seeing mammals and abundant birdlife, however currently the trail is closed as there is no proper control at the entrance and the first half of the trail often gets flooded in the rainy season. So the national park approached Raleigh with the task of building a new trail out to the lake which starts at the visitor centre and avoids flooded areas. This important project will re-open up the park to thousands of visitors each year upon which the local economy depends. You will be continuing the good work of expeditions 12G&H who were based in the park from July to September.