Monday, 28 January 2013

Protecting the Environment and Unbelievable Treckers

Our guest bloggers have told you all about their PPVs for the community phases but today Clive, Louise, Sarah and Clare will tell you about planning projects in Carara, San Lucas Island, The Treks and Cabo Blanco.

Guest Blogger Louise - Alpha 4 Carara National Park
Carara means place of the crocodiles

We left cloudy Turrialba and greeted sunny hot Carara National Park. We were met by Osvaldo who is the park's administyrator. Osvaldo speaks no English, so our group turned to our wonderful multi-talented Marisa who is not only a great doctor but great at speaking Spanish. She expertly asked our multitude of questions, poor Osvaldo wasn’t quite prepared for this super keen group of ladies and his main answer was ‘tranquilo, tranquilo’, (turns out this means be calm), another word to add to our ever increasing Spanish vocabulary!
Beautiful rainforest, our trail will be running underneath this incredible canopy
PM Emma illustrating one of the trails that Alpha 4 will be working on

He took us to our accommodation for the first phase - a disused former ranger station - where we will be falling asleep to the sounds of the rainforest, pretty exciting! However, for our visit, we spent two nights in Osvaldo’s house, what a lucky man! Whilst sitting outside the house we were amazed to see a huge iguana happily strolling along a branch and a white faced capuchin monkey swinging from tree to tree. We thought it couldn't get any better, but we were wrong...

We were taken into the rainforest to wander around the trails that the Alpha 4 will be improving in Phase 1. As we wandered Osvaldo would stop to point out ants busy carrying leaves at least 5 times their size, an agouti sat chilling out in the undergrowth and a scarlet macaw up in a hollow in a tree guarding the egg it had laid. Later on we even saw an anteater scaling a tree, even David Attenborough isn’t that lucky in a day!

Another beautiful illustration from Emma

We are really excited about meeting our Venturers, sharing this stunning place with them and improving the trails so that the visitors can access this magical place too, bringing in much needed economy to the park to sustain the rangers, protect the park from poachers and ensure the loss of biodivesity is reduced. Pura vida!

Guest Blogger Clare - Alpha 5 San Lucas Island

A derelict prison on an uninhabited island might not be everyone's first choice of accommodation  but nevertheless myself and PMs Sally, Paul and Kate rocked up to San Lucas Island on Monday for a project planning visit. Within minutes of arrival by boat (the only way to get to San Lucas) we began to realise just how exciting a Raleigh project this was going to be. 
Clearing and cleaning San Lucas for Alpha 5

Until 1992 San Lucas person housed some of the most notorious criminals in Costa Rica. As well as the prison a small community farmed on the island and the wives and children of some of the inmates, low security prisoners and ex-prisoners who despite having been released preferred to remain on the island rather than attempt to assimilate back into society. The island is now being transformed into a wildlife refuge, but despite the jungles' attempts to reclaim many of the abandoned buildings, litter, rusted metal, barbed wire and debris create significant hazards for the wildlife. Furthermore the rangers also hope to turn San Lucas into a tourist attraction in order to provide an income to maintain this unique environment and educate about bio-diversity.
San Lucas journey

Half an hour into our visit we had already seen flying fish and pelicans over the surrounding seas. A few hours more and we had seen a troop of howler monkeys, lizards and a snake slithering off into the undergrowth (non-venomous our ranger assured us). Inspired, we set about visiting and planning some of the projects Raleigh would be undertaking. Our project teams will be continuing some of the cleaning work that was started by previous expeditions, removing years worth of scrap and litter and recycling where possible. Another significant problem the island has is poaching, currently rangers struggle to move quickly to different parts of the island if they suspect a poaching vessel has landed. Expedition 13A will be building an access trail through the jungle from one beach to another to help the rangers tackle this threat more effectively.
Paul, Sally and Clare setting up comms

Talking of beaches, San Lucas boasts numerous sandy shores (risk assessing these was a particularly arduous task which we bravely undertook). Crabs, hermit crabs and monkeys in the coconut palms lining the beach added to our fast growing list of wildlife sightings. That evening we sat on the jetty and watched the sun set over the sea, a beautiful aspect which our teams will have every evening. After a good nights sleep, only partially disturbed by the monkeys echoing through the jungle, we left the isolation of San Lucas to return to Fieldbase. 
Risk assessing, tough work
Sunset in San Lucas

The history of the island, the cells with decades of prisoners graffiti, the array of flora & fauna which Raleigh will be helping to conserve makes San Lucas a truly fascinating project. Bring on 13A!

Guest Blogger Clive - Alpha 6 Cabo Blanco 
Sunset at Cabo Blanco

After a day of travelling we finally arrived at the beautiful nature reserve of Cabo Blanco at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. There we were greeted by Francisco (or Chico) the Head Ranger of the park. Cabo Blanco is an absolute reserve and only a limited number of tourists are allowed in. This means that the majority of the reserve is untouched and the wildlife is truly abundant in this beautiful place. Almost too abundant, during dinner that evening we shared the dining room at the Ranger Lodge with a 2m boa constrictor which was chased from the room with a broom. 
Liz beautiful photography
A well deserved rest for Clive and Zoe
During the day we saw and heard howler monkeys, saw iguanas fighting and a coati patrolling around the lodge. The project is to construct a circular path through the jungle to allow better access for tourists. This will mean a lot of hard work, or “trabajo muy muy duro” as Chico put it, to move the raw materials up from the beach. We are very lucky to have been granted permission to build our own “luxury” accommodation in the form a of a jungle camp in this very special place. That will be our first job when we return with our group of venturers in a weeks time.
Calling Fieldbase to share their experience

Guest Blogger Sarah - Unbelievable Treckers 

The infamous Don Martin dropped us off early evening in Barbilla enough time to organise a place to camp on the edge of the National Park and a guide for the following day (courtesy of Marco) thankfully Scottish Colin, our honorary Spanish translator successfully negotiated a place to stay and a guide. Minor issues over prices were smoothed over with a quick call to trusty Fieldbase and Alphas 1 to 3 learn to always read the small-print first in their trip notes.

Sarah, Colin, James and Gemma

Alpha Girls set up the tent in the community centre to perfect our tent erecting technique while the alpha boys made a delicious dinner of rice and pork (flavouring!) and frijoles, finished off with a delicious and well deserved hot chocolate. Logistical aspects like purifying water were sorted and lights were out at 8pm (rock stars). A 4am wake up call and a splendid nights sleep were met by Marco at the Escuela as we all understood but The bringing back of the key was lost in translation but Alpha 3’s James happily walked back to the community centre to sort the problem out – what a guy.

James, Sarah and Gemma

Our first day of “proper” walking was lead by Roberto, a quiet local guide, a 27 year old who wore wellies (we are sure his patience began to wane after shoe change two of our river crossing) and carrying a tiny bag without any water or food to our knowledge. We had our whale sized hump backs, map and  enthusiasm to boot, not sure that Roberto was that convinced we were going to make the 2 day trek in 1!
As daylight crept in at 6am, we used the satphone then off right into the jungle, like 4 oblivious ants carrying their homes into what felt like the wilderness. Thick mud, steep climbs and descents kept us entertained and challenged us. Our aim was to fit 2 days into 1 so 11am was lunchtime and we had thankfully reached Ernestos house, a welcome opening into the jungle. Here at the small dwelling we filled up on water, sat down in the big green space for refried bean paste and crackers – delicious, no shortage of nuts and fruit and biscuits either.
The legends of Alpha 1
The second half of the day a.k.a day 2 – was more exhausting uphill back into the jungle. The sun breaking through the enormous trees and shafts of light making it through the leaves, it was relentless uphill, slippery and boggy, mud like we had never seen before each hour broken up with energizing nuts and biscuit stops. Fuelled to the top we made it to the clearing, the trees parted and we got more views of the jungle canopy more importantly we were overlooking the indigenous village of Valle Escondido (which means hidden valley), where we saw in the distance Casa Anquilla- where we were camping for the night. By 3pm all Alphas were very proudly catching 40 winks on La Plaza. Dinner was the piece de la resistance – salty cheesey pasta with veg, chickpeas and tomato sauce. A splendid hot chocolate to end, a fantastic feeling of utter achievement with two days done in the time of one. And another world record… bed time of 7pm – marvellous.
 2 days of trekking in one - a well deserved rest for Alpha 3
Late start of 6.30am, our goal today was to reach Rio Pacuare where Don Martin was to pick us up. Another tough uphiller, meandering rivers and slippery downhiller in the glorious Costa Rican sunshine we made or target fifteen minutes early. The corner shop of Bajo Pachare provided Alphas 1 and 3 with the best coca cola we’d had for a long time.  Muchos achievement all round. Bring on the trekking proper!

An amazing 5 days out on PPV (Project Planning Visit) for all. I hope you have enjoyed our guest bloggers - more from them and their project communications officers during phase. Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading the blog so far, for your support of our team and all that we are trying to achieve. Venturers arrive on Tuesday - here we go!


  1. Buenas vibras Nachón, disfrute el tour y deje en alto a moncho se le quiere papillo lo espero a cacheeete! Un abrazo zorro.... Popi

    Para: Ignacio Sancho Vargas

  2. Hi Louise. Great blog. Emmas paintings are very good. It's a wonder she can paint with water colours in the rain-forest! I had to Google "Agouti". They seem to look like squirrels but without the tail? I'm glad to hear your Spanish vocabulary is expanding... what's that? Three words now! Adios Dad x

  3. Good work Dad (Clive) glad you're getting to grips with the wildlife somewhat.
    Hope the young ones aren't giving you the run around too much!
    Don't get eaten by beasties!

    Love you!

  4. To Cecilia (Alpha 4), great to see you are having fun. Mum is having a nice birthday. Weather is horrendous here. We are cuddling by the fire. Off to Normandy next week. We are well and thinking of you. Shaika misses you and out of desperation looks for Seb's company. Love from Sas, Seb, Mum and Dad (and Shaika the cat).



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