Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Greetings from a muddy Alpha 3

Hello everyone, Alpha 3 here

We have working hard on building and maintaining trails in Carara National Park, here in Costa Rica.  It's a sweaty, humid and dirty job, but we are really enjoying ourselves.  We had a visit from the Fieldbase team who brought us some supplies and they came up with great new games in the evening.

Today we're trying to finish one section of the path.  The massive pile of gravel and rocks outside our accommodation is gradually being reduced with the Herculean effort of the team using a mixture of wheelbarrows and sandbags.

We had to do some maintenance on our water filter system this morning, we need water to drink and cook with.  But if there isn't enough to have a shower hopefully a quick dip in the river later will remove most of the mud.

Lot's of wildlife to be seen and maybe we'll have a visit from the very tame Iguana later today.

Hasta luego
Alpha 3

from Eveline, Project Comms Officer

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Fat Pandas send a message home - Alpha 4

Playa Hermosa!  Definitely deserves the name "Beautiful Beach!"

We've been here just over a week now and Alpha 4 has been enjoying every second.  We've had sunshine, storms, lightening and starry night skies.  The work has been carried out both in the hatchery and on the beach, first collecting and recording the baby turtles from the nests and then releasing them into the sea.

"Releasing the baby turtles at sunrise was one of my best moments ever, so magical and surreal.  I feel so privileged to have experienced it".

The Rangers have welcomed us all into their team and never let us forget the impact of the contribution we are making.  The pancakes they made us for breakfast were also greatly received by all.

The Fat Panda team still remain close and will be sad to be leaving each other when this phase comes to an end in a couple of days.  However we are all excited to begin working on our new projects!

Hope you all enjoy the video and the view.  Much love from Fat Pandas.
Pura Vida!
Project Comms Officer, Ben Byers

Alpha 1 - tired but happy!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Alpha Uno on the final stretch

Hola everyone!  This is Alpha Uno again, checking in approximately 101kms from when we chatted last.  Over the last 9 days we've wandered through the wilderness of the Costa Rican jungle, hiked up to the highest point of our trek and finally ended up on some semi-flat land.
Alpha 1
Alpha one - a well deserved sit down
Our 3 day stint in the jungle was an experience in itself.  Often we found ourselves slipping and sliding in mud up to the tops of our boots whilst our cries for help were drowned out by the laughter of everyone else watching us flail around uselessly.  Although the majority of the slopes we climbed resembled towering walls rather than forgiving inclines, we somehow managed to drag ourselves, and our team mates, into the light of day to stay in some of the most amazing places any of us had ever seen.  The breathtaking views we woke up to every morning more than made up for the soggy boots and caked on mud we endured the previous day.
Candle lit dinners on trek
Candle lit dinners on trek
After leaving the jungle behind we continued our ascent up massive hills, everyday coming closer to our highest altitude of 2842m above sea level.  What an incredible achievement to have walked more than 100kms, but also nearly 3kms above our starting point on the shore of the Caribbean Sea.  Many a hug was shared atop that mountain.  It was a moment all of us will remember with pride whilst recounting our trekking tales in the years to come.
Filling up on pasta
Filling up on pasta
However something to be kept in mind whilst climbing such heights: although technically closer to the sun, one must always pack a fleece and at least on pair of warm and dry socks.  This was unfortunately forgotten by many on Alpha Uno, we have instead resorted to cuddling to share body heat, eating as many meals as possible in our sleeping bags, as well as consuming copious amounts of tea and coffee.  So far this seems to be working.
Keeping warm
Keeping warm
As we enter the final chunk of our trek we welcome flat land with open arms.  It is a much needed break for our aching knees and feet.  Although we tend to begin and end these days shrouded in a fine mist, we easily breeze through 20kms days on this less hilly terrain.  This does, however, require many an early start.

Sophie signing off
Sophie signing off
On that note, Alpha Uno signs out and into the home stretch of our journey.  See you on the other side.

from Sophie, Project Comms Officer

A woman's work...Alpha 5

In Los Loros tasks are clearly divided between the men and the women.  This is what Jonas and I found out when he was making a tortilla and I was watching him from a hammock.  Our dad explained this wasn't the way to go and took Jonas with him to show him his horse, pigs and chickens.  Now me and my mum have the whole kitchen for ourselves - lucky us!
Hester digging
Hester turns her hand to "man's work"
While the men are machete-ing their way through sesame seed fields and helping us dig the trenches (way better and faster than we can), the women are busy making tortillas, milking cows and washing Raleigh shirts (hell yeah, my mum does my laundry!)
Jonas, master of all he surveys
Jonas, master of all he surveys
One thing is for sure, they treat you as their family, or even better.  We get huge meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, loads of rice pudding and bananas all day long.  And last but certainly not least: the coffee!!  I didn't like the coffee at all before I came here, but now I can't get enough (I guess the loads of sugar they put in also helps).
Hester, Jonas and their Nicaraguan family
Hester, Jonas and their new Nicaraguan family
But the full family treatment doesn't end with feeding and digging trenches.  Yesterday I had a manicure with my mum and cousin - my nails have never looked as bad as they do now but I love them!  We taught our little brothers to play cards and as we learn more and more Spanish we try to teach them some English.  As soon as we take out our head torches (at 17.30 it's pitch black out here), pen and paper the whole family gathers around just watching us write the alphabet and some easy English phrases.  My mum is the only one who can read and write but everyone is extremely interested (while I'm writing now there are three heads watching me) - it's a lovely feeling.

 from Hester, Project Comms Officer

And then there were more

Expedition 12L comes in two flavours - a 10 week and a 7 week option.  The 10 week venturers, who arrived a few weeks ago are now coming to the end of phase one and will soon be joined by explorers who are here for the 7 week option. The explorers will choose to do 2 project phases (Community, Environmental or Trek) rather than all 3.

So the new 12L explorers arrived in San Jose last night and made their way to Fieldbase this morning.  Welcomed, as usual, by a breakfast of rice and beans (Gallo Pinto) and the Fieldbase crew.  This morning will be busy with admin, money exchange, swim assessments etc, and then this afternoon it's straight off to jungle camp to learn the joys of building a basha bed and cooking on a trangia (for newcomers please see the Raleigh Lingo on the right hand sidebar, and don't worry you'll get the hang of all this new vocabulary very soon).
Explorers head off to jungle camp
Back row: Vinnie, Franklina, Phil, Barney, Carlyn
Front row: Louis, Jack, Bodyl, Claudia
So as we bring 7 new explorers into the Raleigh fold, the adventure continues...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The aliens have landed...Alpha 5

The aliens have landed!  Bleary eyed by our rocky road trip we arrive at the peaceful village of Los Loros.  With our green t-shirts, tool box and strange pills for our water.

Raleigh has journeyed for over two days to help locate, plan and build a gravity water feed to the rural  village of Los Loros.  Alongside Raleigh volunteers, the Achuapa Co-operative group will supply clean water to over ten households and one school.  The remote village of Los Loros is surrounded by beautiful Nicaraguan mountains 50 metres above sea level.
Off to work on the trenches
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work they go
The water source is a further 70 metres above.  The local village men, Co-operative group and Raleigh volunteers from all corners of the world will plan and dig trenches through varying mountain terrain to bring fresh clean mountain water to within walking distance of the houses of Los Loros.
We greet the locals who have been awaiting our arrival.  It's just before dusk and outside the home of Maria Jesus we are introduced to our respective families who greet us with a big hug and a beautiful song that references our individual homes.

"Welcome England, welcome Holland, welcome Germany, Welcome Costa Rica, Welcome Portugal.  
Los Loros welcomes you as our children." 

Alex with the Captain
Work mates - Alex and the Captain
We disperse into our houses and gobble a feast of rice, beans and plantain.  No need for an alarm clock here, we rise to the sound of a singing rooster and begin our plans.  My new mother shows us pictures of her 12 brothers and sisters and we are keen to learn of her family.
Bertalina, Miguel and family
Anika, Mela and their new Nicaraguan family
My mum's name is Bertalina and my dad is Miguel, who tells me it was love at first sight when he saw Berta washing in a stream many years ago.   The following morning armed with a bowl, Berta takes me to a stream a few metres below our house where I wash whilst listening to the peaceful movement of water where previously I could only hear my ipod.  I walk back from the stream greeted by a roaring pig.

The community here in Los Loros has welcomed us with open arms, which has made the experience much easier and exciting to experience.  And this is only the beginning of phase 1...
Anika and Anna radio in
Anika and Anna radio in the news
 Project Comms Officer, Anika

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Turtle Tastic

Playa Hermosa literally means ‘beautiful beach’ but it’s most interesting visitors haven’t come to see the scenery. Thousands of olive ridley and black turtles, plus some rare leatherbacks, come to lay their eggs each year, making this a place of huge ecological interest. Unfortunately the eggs fall prey to natural predators and are at risk from poachers, who steal them to sell at up to $50 each.

releasing of baby turtles

We have three tasks during this project. Firstly, we must hold nightly turtle patrols, collecting the eggs and placing them safely into nests in a hatchery . Secondly, when the eggs are hatched, we 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 task involves planting trees to restore biodiversity, essential after the severe deforestation of the 1970s.  This is an exciting and very important conservation project that Raleigh has been proud to run for many years with long term partners at MINAET.

Alpha 3 at Hermosa

“The Raleigh groups have been excellent. Without their help we wouldn’t be nearly as successful in our work to help save these incredible creatures”
Marco Vinicio, Ranger

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

News on Alpha 4 also known affectionately as "Fat Pandas"

The last 9 days Alpha 4 (team name Fat Pandas) have been working in Carara National Park on an environmental project.  Using manual labour, basic tools and team spirit we managed to complete approx. 150m of nature trail providing a new access route into the park.

Fat Pandas at work
A couple of fat pandas at work
The days were long and hot but motivation and team morale remained strong.  We never thought a group could become so close in such a short amount of time.
alpha 4
Spirits are high

It hasn't all been work, we still managed to find time to celebrate Hidde's 18th birthday with a party,  music, games and thanks to Oscar, the park ranger, even cake and ice cream!

Evenings have been spent playing countless games of uno, salsa lessons, massage sessions, Spanish lessons and slangtastic classes.

During our time here we have seen a variety of wildlife, from capuchin monkeys, Iguanas, and coati to coral snakes, lizards, toads and crocodiles.   We were lucky enough to have a rare sighting of a black jaguar which crossed our trail.  We found it hard to believe too when Tory first told us!

It's been a great first project and even though we'll be sorry to say goodbye to Sarah, one of our project managers we're waiting to welcome Charlie into the Fat Panda family.

Wahgwar to my bredrins at home, keep it real, safe, all bless.

Pura Vida
Comms officer Ben

Words by Comms Officer Ben Byers

Keep on trekking - Alpha 2

After 5 more long days of finding not-so-short-cuts through the jungle, we're now delighted to have made it to day 11 alive and well.  It´s been a hard but successful few days with us overcoming a lot as a group. We're humbled on a daily basis by the kindness of all the Nicaraguan people for inviting us into their homes when it´s pouring with rain and giving us Nicaraguan coffee (THE best coffee we've ever tasted).  It gets us through the 4am wake-up calls, the blisters, muscle ache, sleeping in wet clothes and endless hills.
Arlenne and David
We´re extremely proud of what we have accomplished so far and we eagerly await day 18 where we'll stand at the top of the Cerro Negro with an invisible glass of champagne in our hands celebrating each other for crossing the finish line.
Archie and Harley
We've had as many ups as we have had downs but getting to the end of the day makes it all worth it.  At the end of this Trek we´ll look back fondly at the moments we´ve shared - like Archie waking us up sleep talking at midnight all ready to go, our PM Claudia falling in the mud, the river crossings (always entertaining), pulperias (life savers!!) or our nightly reviews.
Alpha 2 - on the right track
Alpha 2 - on the right track
It's been great spending all these moments with each other and we wouldn't want to share them with anybody else.  Right now we are about to enjoy (I think) a delicious meal that the fieldbase team is cooking for us.  Wish us luck for the coming few days...Deachimba!

Project comms officers -  Puck,  Ben P and Suwen

Monday, 22 October 2012

Nicaraguan road (off road) trip

We are now on day 7, and over half way through, our epic Nicaraguan road trip.  A small but happy band of intrepid VMs, we loaded up our Land rover with salami, toilet paper, refried beans and other essentials and set off in search of trekkers, community projects and adventure.  We found all three.
We had a smooth ride along the InterAmerican highway to make our way to Nicaragua.
We had a much bumpier ride to find the Trekkers, having to rebuild some of the road as we went.
And we had to leave the trusty Landy behind altogether and proceed on foot to find the community projects.

First was a visit to Alpha 2 , the Miratombo Trekkers, who we on fine form having made good time that day to be bang on schedule.  We were able to cook them supper and pass on messages from home which lifted their spirits even further.

Next we spent some time with 2 ICS projects near Achuapa, this is a different scheme to the core Raleigh programme but they do similar projects with local communities to provide running water, coffee drying beds, and supporting youth and women's groups.

Today we are providing another food drop for Alpha 2 who have requested fresh fruit, which will be a pleasure to provide.  We'll stay with them for the night then it's off to Alpha 5 for two nights.

Alpha 5 have requested tea bags, biscuits and candles - they intend hosting a British tea party for their community.  I'm not sure if the candles are out of necessity or just for ambiance; it's all very Downton Abbey.
So for those of you keenly anticipating news of your venturers I should have a lot more to tell you in the next couple of days.  Watch this space...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Alpha 5 versus Los Loros

     Alpha 5 are in Los Loros, a small community near to Achuapa, 50 miles from the Pacific coast, working on a project to develop a gravity-feed water system to provide the community with clean and safe drinking water. This is a much welcomed project for the locals who often have to walk large distances to collect water and are forced sometimes to collect water from polluted streams as there simply isn't enough supply to go around. 

     Alpha 5 have been busy with the community to help find the water source, dam the spring by collecting the water in a cement tank, digging trenches and laying pipes to help supply all the local houses. 

     All the venturers live and work with the local families and join in with the cooking, chores and sometimes helping out on the farms. Alex the designated leader of the day  told me " a few of us have have tried our hand at cow milking without much success and have decided not to give up the day job and stick to trench digging!" They have also been receiving Spanish lessons and have returned the favour by teaching English at the local school.

      When I asked how the project was going today Alex told me "we are currently waiting for cement to be delivered (probably a case of mañana, which means tomorrow or rather not today  "and have therefore arranged a base ball match against the locals. We are expecting to get a hiding but will let you know the score tomorrow evening." 

     Any one like to take bets?????

Friday, 19 October 2012

Alpha 1, Coasting along.........

Alpha 1 with their Day Leader Shirt.
Alpha 1 

Here is a taster of life on the coast to coast expedition as written by our Project Comms Officer Sophie.

Hey there, outside world! This is Alpha Uno reporting 8 days and approximately 102 kms into our first phase of this expedition.  So far, we've seen a large variety of the weather Costa Rica has to offer, from the scalding sun during our first day at the Caribbean Sea to the evening rain we set up camp in last night, we've survived it all! We've also covered a lot of distance over a wide range of terrain, and are feeling rather accomplished!  The map sheet we've just moved off of had roads, rivers and railways and the map we've just began is essentially only contour lines.

A little breakdown of what our days look like: a typical rooster-call wake-up, courtesy of venturer Chama, is around 4 am, followed by a quick breakfast of porridge.  Our early wake-ups allow us to (for the most part) avoid the full heat of the Central American sun.  Lunch consists mainly of crackers, re-fried beans, and if we're lucky meat!  Although we already seem to have misplaced half of a salami.....! Our afternoons contain slightly longer breaks and water refills kindly supplied by locals. This generosity never ceases to amaze us.  All of us have tried some new fruits and had a dry building (community centres) to sleep in with an occasional shower provided to us by strangers.  It's incredible and humbling to experience this great kindness, and all of us are very grateful.

Every day on this trek is a new experience for each of us. As one of the venturers put it "every breath is a new beginning".  We're all learning to be present in the moment, and to appreciate every aspect of this amazing experience that we're so lucky to be a part of.

Alpha 1
They may have been sparkly new boots on arrival  but have certainly now seem some action since  Alpha 1 emerged from several days trekking in the jungle!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

News from Nicaragua - Alpha 2

Miratombo Trek, day 6
Alpha 2 having a rest
This trip is not for the faint-hearted but as a team we're strong! Being part of a team helps you overcome any difficulties.  You can lean on your teammates and everybody helps each other along.  The awesome feeling of the team massages, team hugs, getting tortillas from the (always friendly) locals, and just the vibe that's in the air takes every bit of discomfort away and allows you to feel accomplished and proud of everything you've achieved during the day.
Arlene resting tired feet
Arlene resting tired feet
It's funny how easily a person can get used to feeling dirty and not having the comforts that we have at home.  It all makes the experience even more special.  Also being the day leader teaches you to handle a lot of responsibility and helps you grow as a person.  That being said, it's not all fun of course, we work hard, we're all dirty, tired, hungry and have sore feet but still we push forward, smile and think happy thoughts and with every mountain we climb, we look around and see the view and that makes it all worth it.
Diego reaches the top
Diego reaches the top
So we're just going to keep on moving until we get there!

Words by Project Comms officers - Puck and Ben P
Pictures by Arlene

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The man from Head Office...he say yes!

We have a special visitor with us at the moment...all the way from Raleigh HQ. Rahim who is the Youth Partnerships Officer for Raleigh had never seen an expedition in action, and he wanted to find out if all of the good things he was hearing were true.  Could it be as awesome as everybody said?  He is joining us for 2 weeks to get a flavour of what it feels like to be out on expedition.

Rahim - raring to go!
"I've always been a strong believer in Raleigh's work and always knew that the expeditions were amazing but being here has opened my eyes.  It's even more amazing than I thought.  Words can't express how incredible it feels to be part of expedition 12L.  It's such a pleasure meeting all of the venturers, VMs and staff and living an actual expedition.  I'm going to be so sad to leave early and I'll be thinking of you all when I'm back in London. Pura Vida!"

As Rahim is scared of bugs, spiders and the dark we can't wait to hear how he gets on - let's wish him luck!

Monday, 15 October 2012

We're going on a Road Trip!

Field Base Road Trip
Natalie, Karen, Nicole and Phil 'the bear'

Occasionally the Field Base team are given the opportunity to escape and venture further afield by going on a   'Road Trip'. The purpose of the road trip is to check on the venturers and their progress and  deliver or replace much needed equipment such as lost boots or broken rucksacks or tape for those inevitable blisters! It is also when the much welcomed food drop is made and the venturers receive more of their  favourite meals of rice and beans and the 'stick to your ribs' porridge. Occasionally if the field base team are feeling generous they may cook them a cake to take along, as was our communication manager "Ruth" when she recently visited Alpha 3, who are at Playa Hermosa currently protecting the turtles.

Ruth our comms officerAlpha 3 Playa Hermosa

Alpha 3, Jim,Clare, Andrea, Angel, Callum, Eveline, Henry, Laura, Lillian, Lydia, Marco, Matt, Max and Raheem at  Playa Hermosa receiving a much welcomed visit from Field Base!

The road trip is also a chance for stories and gossip to be exchanged and any messages posted on the blog to be delivered to the venturers when they can receive news and good wishes from home which can lift the spirits if they are feeling a tad "home sick"!

Occasionally on the road trips we have to collect and return volunteer managers back to field base such as our intrepid photographer "Joss" who is much missed at Fieldbase for his skills as a Spanish teacher and his incredible general knowledge (sometimes not useful or relevant but nevertheless entertaining)............ who needs Google when we have Joss? Hopefully soon he will be returned with some wonderful pictures of all the venturers having the time of their lives.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

This is zero, this is zero... over

When everyone is out on their projects there is always a core team here at Fieldbase.  Each Alpha group has various means of staying in touch (a radio, a mobile phone and a satellite phone) so they are never cut off from advice, support or a friendly word.

There are two official communications from each group at a set time each day.  One is just to check in and the other ones is a more detailed SITREP (situation report).  This is a structured conversation that includes where the group are, what they've been doing, what they are going to do and allows information to be shared both ways.  One person is responsible for manning the Comms Room at Fieldbase each day to take the calls morning and night.  Our call sign here is zero.
Charlie and Martina manning the radio - this is zero, this is zero...
The news from our Alpha groups over the past couple of days is:-
Alpha 1 - Yesterday they walked 18km to San Miguel and ate some fantastic salami.

Alpha 2 - They have walked from Miraflor Ranger Station to La Naranjita.

Alpha 3 - Arrived at Playa Hermosa and have succeeded in building basha beds to keep dry.  They have gone straight into Turtle patrols and working with the rangers.

Alpha 4 - At Carara National Park the jungle camp site is waterlogged so they are living in a ranger house - and it has the bonus of electricity.  They've started work on the trail.

Alpha 5 - Arrived at Achuapa, they are having a tour of the community and the water source today.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Early starts and fond farewells...

Today is deployment day - the day when all Alpha groups head out to their projects.  It starts early with alarm calls at 3.30 am, that's right I said 3.30 AM!  And there was no avoiding it as Martina drove a Land rover around the campsite with both the horn and radio blaring - nice one Martina.
Ben and Sophie and a big sandwich
There was time to make a big sandwich for breakfast and another one for lunch and then belongings and tools had to be loaded on the buses.
Yorleny, Tigi and Patrice - watching over a lot of heavy rucksacks

Bonds have been formed over the past few days so there were fond farewells, best wishes and hugs as new friends said "Adios" for 19 days.  And a few venturers had a special goodbye for Splatches, the resident Fieldbase dog, who is keen to be everyones best friend.
Henry, Matt and Lilian say goodbye to Splatches
As the sun came up the buses headed off in different directions - to Playa Hermosa, Carara National Park, Nicaragua and the start of the Coast to Coast Trek.  Some will be travelling for a couple of hours and some for a couple of days, before they arrive at their destination and the work begins. 
On their way
Remember to leave your messages here and we will make sure that they are received by you loved ones whilst they are away at their projects - your kind wishes mean a lot to everyone.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

R&R - that's Turri Time and Salsa

After a very early start at jungle camp and a lot of training, there was a little time at the end of the day yesterday for some R & R.  The venturers discovered what local shopping opportunities there are in Turrialba ("Turri Time").  Rodeo Drive it ain't; but then if you're only after mossie spray and wet wipes it's just the job.
Anna and new friendsArchie and new friends
Then after supper it was time for Salsa.  K-dawg and Jae, our resident snake-hipped salsa king and queen, were the instructors.

Suwen with her "salsa face"Floor and her "salsa face" There were some warm-up exercises, including getting the "salsa face" right - basically that's having a huge smile and looking like you're enjoying yourself - which inevitably you are.

After some expert coaching by the end of the evening I'd say everyone had mastered the technique.  The HCVs partnered up with those that were less sure and the dance floor was swinging to those Latin American beats.
Salsa dancing

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Jungle camp, muddy boots and energy bombs

Just to report that all of the Alpha groups made it back from jungle camp - safe and sound, if a little dirty around the edges. 
Callum off to jungle camp
Callum setting off in the sunshine
The sun was shining when they left, and I'd love to tell you it stayed that way throughout, but the truth is that it did rain.  And it rained Costa Rican style.  Most groups managed to get some kind of shelter up before the downpour which meant that spirits stayed high, buoyed by pasta or rice and energy bombs.

Bright and early this morning the venturers headed back to Fieldbase, but on the way ran through the procedure for a medical emergency.  This involves some Oscar winning performances of injury or illness, the creation of a stretcher and then carrying the "victim" back to Fieldbase. Everyone dealt with the emergency really well, another set of skills acquired and understood.
Hosing down the tents
Once back at Fieldbase there was work to be done cleaning off tents and equipment, so everything will be ship shape and ready to go when the expedition starts on Friday. 
Washing up
Lunch and showers were a welcome sight - and the local launderette is doing a roaring trade thanks to Raleigh venturers.