Friday, 30 November 2012

Digging those trenches... Zulu 4

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

by Suwen,  Project Comms Officer

Zulu 2...tired but inspired!

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

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

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

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

By Hester, Project Comms Officer

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Zulu 5.. warm hearts, big smiles

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

By Ben P, Project Comms Officer

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Which Zulu are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulu 4
Zulu 4 - Los Loros

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

Monday, 19 November 2012

X-ray 4 - full of beans!

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

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

by Florian, Project Comms officer

X-ray 2 - welcome to the jungle

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

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

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

from Ben P, Project Comms officer

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

A day in the life of X-ray 3

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

by Shannon Potter, Project Comms officer

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

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

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

by Anika, Project Comms Officer 

X-ray 5 - building houses and friendships

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

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

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

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

Aventura de un voluntariado anunciado - X-Ray 3

Tres en punto de la mañana el equipo de Raleigh esta listo para despertar a todos los aventureros, algunos duermen sobre las frias tables de las tiendas del campamento; los mas intrepidos pasaron la noche en la calida terraza del hogar temporal de voluntariados.

El sonido de las llantas de un gran pickup cerca de las tiendas de los aventureros acompanado del pito resonante despierta murmullos, illusion, risas, abrazor de despedidas y mises de sonrisas.

Musica teckno motiva a los voluntarios a cargar con su equipaje y emprender el viaje con sus nuevos grupos asignados.
X-Ray 3 en el Parque Nacional Carara, Jaco Puntarenas Costa Rica.
Catorce aventureros inician la historia de su segunda fase en el bosque del pacifico, los guardaparques nos Sorprenden con su hospitalidad y la curiosa forma de indentificar el olor de las serpientes.
Rapidamente los 14 hermanos se adaptan en sur nueva casa temporal con zona de masajes llamada "Heaven in Raleigh", Restaurante trois con menu especial,
...cada mañana  avena, en el amuerzo frijoles y en las cenas sorpresas, el bar Carara nos mantiene hidrataos y despiertos al grupo mientras trabajan y no puede faltar mencionar a el rincon especial para hamacas done todos disfrutan del sonido del bosque, monos aulladores, lapas, ranas, grillos.
Mites de risas compartidas despues de largas horas de trabajo, con mucho lodo en la cara tras contruir senderos en el Parque Nacional.  Los voluntarios organizan juegos nocturnos bajo la luz de la luna y velas que mantiene unido y entretenido al grupo.

Juegos de adivinanzas, el famoso ninja, serenatas, futbol al estilo Harry Potter, son algunas de las actividades que hacen que la familia la pase pura vida.!

Ansiosos por el cambio de fase en playa hermosa con last tortugas X-ray 3 disfruta sus ultimos dias en el rio.  Continuara...

Por Vera, Project Comms officer

Monday, 12 November 2012

Coming soon... expedition 13A!

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 / emails - if there is anything else you need please do not hesitate to get in touch with David Winterflood at Head Office. 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 13A…. See you soon!

First of all, the community projects:

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 20 families. 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.


Conte Burika Indigenous Territory – Health Post Build
Deep in Costa Rica’s tropical south, the Punta Burika peninsula runs along the Panamanian border and is home to the Ngobe – an independent, indigenous people who live by subsistence farming in this beautiful but remote area. While their day-to-day life is seemingly simple and peaceful, the Guaymi face many complicated issues ranging from losing land to more assertive farmers across the border, to having little or no access to health and education. At the request of the community of la Carona, Raleigh will build a health post in order to provide health care for a wide area and dispersed population. Tricky access means that materials will mostly came from the surrounding forest – a highly skilled indigenous sierrista (chainsaw operator) will carefully selected trees from the reserve for the team to dry, saw, plane and sand before they construct a stilted wooden building.

And the treks...

The Coast to Coast Trek - Costa Rica
This trek 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.

...not forgetting the environmental projects.

Carara National Park – National Park 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 expedition 12 who were based in the park from September to December

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Trekking - full time job for X-ray 1

What is your profession? For the past 8 days and the next 11 to come, the answer for X-Ray 1 is trekking, trekking, trekking!

We have re-named ourselves Wolf-gang. X Ray 1 just doesn't do us justice when facing the challenging terrain of these Nicaraguan mountains. There is no doubt that they are beautiful but to get to the top may not take blood, but it takes lots of sweat and yes maybe a few tears! Tears of frustration, but by the end of the phase only tears of joy! Success!
Miratombo Trek
A lot of effort... but worth it for the view
Some of us have caught the trekking bug and have fallen in love with our nomadic lifestyle, others are taking it one day at a time knowing that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Unfortunately for me, 5 star luxury cannot be carried in a rucksack on my back so I cannot have the best of both worlds.  The beautiful sunrises and sunsets don't come with a spa treatment.  The morning sunshine on my tired legs will make do for now until I get home.

Today we have one of our longest days, 19 km so we better crack on. So far we haven't got lost and we can see Volcan Momotombo in the distance so if our map fails us (which it might) we will just follow the mountain home.
Mount Momotombo
Volcan Momotombo - the way home
To all our family and friends wish us all the luck and strength in the world because we are going to need it!  Volcan Momotombo here we come!

from Anika, Project Comms Officer