Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Romeo 4 - Da Jungle is Massive...

Though the departing from our fellow venturers was sad, the excitement of visiting the Costa Rican jungle of Carara National Park pushed us all towards the journey of our Phase 2 project.

After a 4 hour bus ride from Fieldbase, we arrived at the outskirts of the National Park and carried all our food to our new jungle camp. After 3 hours of constructing our beds out of bamboo sticks, we quickly realised that building basha beds was not our forte as gravity took its toll on 4 bashas breaking from underneath us, even 2 on the same night! However, with extra reinforcements in place we can now confirm we are all getting a god night's sleep with nothing (ie no-one) going *bump* in the night!

So far we have done 4 days of work building trenches and meeting the very warm and welcoming rangers, we've had a personal tour of the Park and listened to a very interesting presentation on the National Park's history.

We are also enjoying the nature of the National Park such as the white faced monkey, water snakes, rainbow makaws, lizards, poison dart frogs, white bats and lots of insects.

To conclude our blog, R4 is having an amazing time at Carara National Park and we cant wait to go to the beach and save turtles in Playa Hermosa!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Romeo 1, Romeo 1, where for art thou...

Becky, Bjorn and I from Fieldbase just returned from visiting Romeo 1 at the end of their 5th day trekking, delivering some yummy rations (mmm, more refried beans...), letting them show us their feet (yuk) and delivering messages from home. We can confirm they’re in fantastic spirits!

We met them in a small town called Alegria for their first food drop, us arriving a little (a day!) later than expected due to a road blockage the previous day... However the group had been ‘creative’ with their food budget and when we met them they had all just polished off half of the town’s supply of nachos and enough bread to feed the 5,000. Om. They were still hungry for more though so we joined them for dinner and a sleepover in the community centre where they were staying the night.

The group regaled us with tales of friendly locals, rucksack races and gorgeous scenery on the trek so far, and banter levels were high, the group bonding more and more with every step!

A few notable group dynamics from our short time with the clan...

Isabel appears to be the most at one with nature, collecting flowers and finding time to make her own perfume / fabric freshener...

Tyler craves cotton T-shirts more than life itself (we can confirm that Raleigh quick dry tops honk during trek...) and carries his footie everywhere...

Raman does not like spicy food but might consider a bit of Tabasco for 10,000 colones...

Nicole is pretty popular with all her blog messages and was very in control in her first hours as day leader...

Simon is the most co-ordinated of the group and likes to blend in with the scenery (and Bravo 3)...
Richard’s grasp of the English language is coming on a treat, and he likes to crash parties to get community centre keys...

Sean has the MOST minging feet. Possibly ever. But his sparkly eyes make up for it...
Ta-Shanae is surprisingly strong for someone her size, and VERY good at getting everyone out of bed...

Ysavier makes a mean spicy chickpea dish whilst remaining as cool as a cucumber...

Cat can sprint surprisingly fast in a backpack...

Raymond is very rapidly becoming tri-lingual as a result of studying Spanish in the evenings and speaking a lot about water in English...

Frans (not spelled Franz, and pronounced ‘France’, sorry Frans!) likes to read big books and look at maps...

And Emma likes to talk about toilet issues. A lot. (and we love her for it)

They got back on the road this morning towards Pascua and Paralta today, hoping to make it as far as possible on Day 6 of the Coast to Coast to get well back on track. I have absolutely no doubt they will storm it after watching them bounce down the road as we drove off in the Land Rover!

Good luck guys!

Zulu 3 - A trektastic few days...

Here's a blog from Zulu 3 on the last day of their adventure trek. I can confirm that they arrived last night at the secret location for the survival challenge, along with the other Zulus, and have begun that leg of the adventure challenge. Zulu final trek round up to follow shortly, plus updates on the survival challenge tomorrow!

"Our trekking expedition is coming to an end but what a crazy 5 days it’s been!

We have all been pushed to the limits in terms of our physical strength and psychological determination.
The steep climbs up the mountain trails were gruelling but the sense of achievement once we reached the summit was empowering.

However, if the descent down the mountain side looked appealing compared to the climb, we were fooled. Steep isn’t the word!

There have been some really memorable highlights on this phase too, firstly the scenery is breathtaking. We can finally see Costa Rica in all its glory under the beautiful pink sunrises. Secondly seeing the other ‘Zulus’ is a welcome highlight as we can catch up on all their trekking tales and sympathise over the blister situation which is on the increase!

Also we have discovered another Dr Do-Little-esque talent in our group, like Grace with the howler monkeys, Sylvia can talk to turkeys!

Finally in my opinion, one of the best highlights has been visiting the ‘legendary old lady’ Raleigh groups have been calling on whenever they pass by. In a simple hut smelling of wood smoke, she has just turned 87 but entertains with a wide smile and a warm heart, demonstrating that even if you only have very little by way of possessions you can still live an incredibly fulfilling life. She was an example of friendliness and kindness, it was a pleasure meeting her.

So now after storms last night (where our tents were tested to their limits!) it’s time for our last trek before starting our survival skill section.

La di dar!"

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Z4 - a tale of ups and downs...literally!

After a few setbacks at the beginning of the trek due to minor slip-ups and navigational errors we finally got back on track to hopefully complete our expedition trek on time. There have been some amazing highs (and boy, were they high!) and amazing experiences. Seeing the incredible view from a mountain top plane crash site gave us our first motivation boost to see more of Costa Rica from a high altitude. Despite the struggle of a 3am wake up and climb of the Cerro Bares mountain, we were more than rewarded with the eclectic colours of the sky during sunrise.

While walking we have experiences the kind hospitality of the local people, with many providing us with food such as absolutely delicious mangoes, eggs and tortillas. As we limp towards the finish line with weary feet, we shall all look back with fondness on the roller coaster ride of a journey we have had.

As a group we have stayed strong and although it has been tough, we will one day forget the pain and remember only the spectacular memories we have shared.

Listening out, Zulu 4.

Well done guys and good luck for the next section - the adventure challenge!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Where are Zu!?

Here's an update on where the Zulus are up to on their adventure treks on the penultimate day before the Adventure Challenge!

Zulu 1 are going great guns - they stayed in Bocana last night and had a brilliant evening after a long day trekking and making good progress. Today they're heading to Alto Concepcion Iron Bridge, hopefully another successful days' trekking for them.

Zulu 2 started off the day in Bajo Quesada and are in great spirits, assuring us they didn't get lost once yesterday (not sure we believe them, it happens to the best of us!) Today they're heading to Mastetal.

Zulu 3 were in Piedra Vieja and left the community centre there this morning to head to the Cerro Baru to climb up to the end point, they'll be walking all of the day today to make as much progress as possible to make the job easier tomorrow!

Zulu 4 are all going brilliantly and in good spirits as they head towards Catie, not long to go now!

They'll all be sending in more details as I know you're all dying to hear where they've been and what they've seen, so we'll keep you posted!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Let's Talk About (Alpha) Six...

The last couple of weeks have been simply amazing! We’ve learnt so much about each other, the local way of life, Las Lagunetas and, most importantly, ourselves.

It’s been tough at times, with all the digging, building and heavy rainfall however it’s so worth to see how far we got with the school. It’s incredible to think we have helped so many childrens’ lives through providing another building for education. It’s funny that just a patch of land and a few physical materials can be turned into something of such importance.

The group worked extremely well together and have become a lot closer; almost becoming like a family. Changing groups for the next phase will be sad yet exciting, there’s always room for new people! (Good job as you’re now in the Romeos! Ed.)

Speaking of new people, our temporary local families took really good care of us over the phase, including good food, a comfortable bed and great entertainment. It’s cool to be able to have fun with no need for technology and all the material things, and we are now all much more appreciative of what we have back home!

The locals held a party for us to say thank you for all we had done – a celebration which included plenty of dancing, Latin music and laughter. But the thanks were exchanged both ways and we provided our new Latino friends with gifts to show our appreciation for all they had done for us. Saying goodbye was hard, but we’ll always have the memories!

Here’s to Phase 2!
Ta-Shanae and Tom

Alpha (High) Five!

Alpha 5 spent 17 days in the small community of El Pajarito in northern Nicaragua. After a few days bonding with the locals, we got straight to work in the midday sun. With our trusty pickaxes, shovels, machetes and the unbelieveably useless flade (sorry Logs), we managed to dig the full 1.7km trench for the water pipe from the natural spring to the water tank on the edge of the community. With perfect timing we completed the final 120m stretch on the last day and celebrated that evening with all the locals. 

After performing rousing versions of our national anthems (with a particularly brave solo rendition of the Chinese one from Endgoes), our families surprised us with farewell speeches and men wielding guitars performed several emotional songs. All 14 of us squeezed around the tiniest table to eat a feast cooked by the locals, and the rest of the evening was filled with singing, laughing and a few awkward dances with men sporting dubious moustaches.

Despite the Tico time, Alpha 5 managed to hold several successful English lessons for the community, held a PJ party and whooped the locals at baseball.

Go Alpha 5!

Alpha 3 - the Group To Be! Final Summary

Nineteen days gone and just one beautiful day of sun...luckily our dispositions more than made up for the amount of rain we suffered at Volcan Tenorio!

Over those nineteen days we've walked hundreds of kilometres and lifted many, many bags of sand, cement and gravel - the maths would please any statistician! The team kept together well and helped to motivate each other - and as Amy said, the fact we all lived and slept close together on our jungle camp helped that massively.

Michelle loved her new bed!
The rangers applauded us at the end, impressed by our work ethic (which we must say was completely unrivalled by any other volunteer groups that were working there at the same time as us - a fact we're very proud of!)
The rangers at the National Park with our PMs
They were so impressed that one day they gave us hot showers, let us use their tumble dryer and cooked us a lovely meal and rice pudding for dessert, which was definitely one of the high points of the phase!

So what have we achieved? In the short term, we have aided the building of the staircase to the waterfall and and of the footpath, and set the foundations for the rangers' wall and garden. However in the long term, we will have helped to boost tourism and keep funding coming in for this beautiful area.

We saw some amazing wildlife along the way too. We never saw a tapir (sad face) but got the rare chance to see a troop of white-faced Capuchin monkeys swinging through the trees around our jungle camp. An amazing spectacle!

As the days beckoned nearer to the end, unusually big thunderstorms slowed progress but it gave us the chance to reflect on what we had done and enjoy the team and the friends we had become.

Volcan Tenorio has been physically hard and mentally challenging at times. But we stuck together and buckled down, and we hope to take everything we've learned here into the next phase and into the new group.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

12G Phase 2 Begins!

At 3.30am this morning, the peace and quiet of the post-Superheroes-party slumber was quite tremendously broken by everyones' alarms going off to signal the start of Phase 2!

Half an hour later and the bleary-eyed but excited Romeos were up and ready to start packing up the buses for the off.

Here are the Phase 2 allocations...

Romeo 1 - The Coast to Coast Trek (Adventure):
Isabel Adriana Matamores Torres, Richard Chavarria Varela, Sean McGarry, Ta-Shanae Pitcher-Trott, Tyler Otite, Raymond Mak, Ysavier Darrell, Cat Mills, Nicole Izurieta, Ramandeep Bassi and Simon Allan.

Romeo 2 - Miratombo Trek (Adventure):
Grant Harrison, Sarah E O'Mahony, Christian Raimondo, Chung Wing Yuen, Cole Durham, Gema Valdivia, Matthew McKenzie, Moy McKale, Tomas Bassi, Sofia Quiros Otarola, Luis King, William Milne.

Romeo 3 - Carara, swapping to Playa Hermosa in the second half (Environmental):
Alannah Howie, Chi Ho Mak, Juliana Franco, Reuben McGowan, Thomas Wright, Adam Farley, Elizabeth Samuel-Bryan, Emanuele Pini, Catherine Inch, Craig Thomas, Ruari Thomson, Jessie Li.

Romeo 4 - Playa Hermosa, swapping to Carara in the second half (Environmental):
Teydi Mariem Garcia Ampie, Che Durham, Christopher Hempseed, Laura Lynas, Mayerling Pienda Motenegro, Robin Mackintosh, Ben Woodhouse, Caitlin McGlynn, Lu Ying Yap, tray Legay Cannonier, Michele Calliari.

Romeo 5 - El Pajarito - Gravity Water Feed System (Community)
Saskia Profitt, Leyla Hernandez, Alexander Goodchild, Daniel Cherrie, Elizabeth German, Greg Parnell, Rebecca Atkinson, Tom Harrison, Soheba Mughal, Jed Pattie, Georgia Rattigan, Jawonday Smith, Josue David Tuz Villalobos, Corlo Davide Marescotti, Craig Henry.

Romeo 6 - Miraflor - School Build (Community)
Kat Twigg, Arun Sharma, Ivan Coueslant, Jack Stone, Luis Andres Mora Munoz, Michelle Ka Wai Wong, Suzzanah Kidd, Zichari Young, Oskar Plapperer-Luthgarth, Henry Seal, Sophie Scholl, Thomas Breakwell, Wiliam Pavon Espinoza, Richard Voaden, Sonia Taylor.

Good luck guys, can't wait to hear how you get on.

Fieldbase road trips yet to be announced, we'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

12G Alpha Groups Phase 1 Slideshow!

And now the Alphas. What an awesome phase, reflected in these pictures.

They're all getting ready for the off to their next projects tomorrow, I'll announce where they're going in the morning.

See you in 4 hours...

Goodnight Phase 1!

12H Delta Groups - the final slideshow!

Here's a slideshow to show the whole of Phase 1 for the Delta Groups.


Alpha 2 Miratombo Crew...

Here is a blog from Alpha 2, humorously written throughout the Miratombo trek....

The trek started with a 2-day ride on a school bus, little did we know we were being taken to the school of hard knocks! Each morning we wake up at 03.30hours and eat porridge. The breakfast monotony was made up for however by the butterfly variety fluttering by as we slurped on our nutritious trek fuel.

The trek is going really well, we make good time each day and are coping well with the heat.
However, we rarely get the opportunity to wash, resulting in a few whiffs amongst the group. It isn't for the want not to try however - we would turn our noses up and snub a river of gold if it were to be flanked by a river of water in which we could bathe!

Each house we encounter on our trek has a number of farmyard animals attached, and one particularly bolshy pig has eaten our bar of soap, some peanuts and an avocado. And god only knows what savagery would have ensued were this trek to become an avocado-free environment (we like avocados).

Update: since the last diary entry the heat has ground us down to dust. No words that I write could emphasise enough the amount of sweat pouring from our brows on a daily basis. However th amazing views make up for it!
The volcanoes have now been conquered, and in some style, with a sunrise ascent of Cerro Negro. We found the sink hole of El Hoyo and made it to the Laguna.

The highlights of the trek included seeing a small girl hit a pig in the face with a 5-foot stick, the views from the mountains, seeing everybody work hard together, each day’s conversations and, of course, the finish!

An amazing and unforgettable trek!