Welcome to the official blog for Raleigh India 12I | July - August 2012

Welcome to the Official Blog for Raleigh India 12J September - December 2012.

Monday 30 March 2009

A blog of epic proportions

(Above: resident architect, artist and reluctant photograph subject Emma Wood gets man-handled by fellow mural painters Ed and Alex W in front of the mural she created on the completed houses at Kappikadu.)

Get a cup of tea, perhaps a coffee and maybe even a biscuit. Blog followers, this is a long one!

There is some old saying my Grandmother used to trot out about good intentions, or best laid
plans, and the likelihood of them going astray, which escapes me just now but I’m quite sure it would prove relevant. Here at Fieldbase, the best laid plans to do Monday’s blog bright and early got waylaid.

Fortunately the departing buses carrying the 09C cohort to their final phases did not get waylaid; they have all reached their locations right on schedule.

First up: A bit more Blog Housekeeping. Blog responses are rolling in and will be posted in the comments section of this blog. If you plan to write to a venturer, please post on the most recent blog.

If you’re wondering where everyone is, check out the panel on the right: Phase Three is no longer under construction, it is well and truly underway! The trekkers are en route to their first day on foot, the bashas at Alpha 4’s bamboo city already going up and the new Alpha 3 project is going gangbusters right from the word go. And of course, “Team Toilet” at Kalaianhahalla is back at the Jagankorte school, with two seasoned project managers in Liz and Joey leading the way.

That said, we suspect some of the project managers are feeling a little redundant just now. The Raleigh 09C cohort has become so proficient at project work, whether it is fence-fixing, basha-building, concrete and construction or just whipping up a banoffee pudding over a trangia flame in the middle of remote India, they are experts now and are running as efficient teams.

There are already some rumblings about the “life after Raleigh”, a time which, in the first week of Phase One, seemed so far away it was almost difficult to conceive. Now the Venturers, volunteer managers and Fieldbase team are well aware of just how fast a single phase flies past (it makes a wonderful whooshing sound) and the end of expedition is looming.
But enough waxing lyrical from a sheepish blogger who is trying to make up for the late post… let’s get on with the news!

First up, we waved goodbye to three explorers today.

Tom Mills, Felicity Crabb and Hannah McLaren left Fieldbase to continue their travels. Tom is off to South America to volunteer with a biology centre, while Felicity and Hannah are continuing to tour the rest of this brilliant country with a view to catching up with the rest of the Raleigh rabble after expedition.

All three of these pivotal members will be sorely missed by the 09C cohort.

The good news is, we have some new explorers on Raleigh! Gavin Harrop, Alex Langman, Zahra Hyder, Anuta Pardeshi and Emily O’Connor have joined the fray and have deployed across the expedition.

They had the chance to get to know their fellow Venturers during another whirlwind changeover, which featured a Mexican-themed night complete with a piñata (which looked suspiciously like Country Programme Manager Mark Ashby, complete with Raleigh T-shirt), lots of painting and a screening of the Indian blockbuster, Slumdog Millionaire. (picture: Saturday night's dinner of fajitas and chilli con carne)
Saturday night also featured a spectacular skit performance by each of the Alpha groups. Angel starred in Alpha 1’s skit, with a recount of her efforts to rescue guide Arun from an apparent quagmire, resulting in everyone getting extremely muddy. For Alpha 2, Alli’s dislike of fish featured, along with a few other stories mostly surrounding interactions with the wildlife.

The creativity of alpha 4 was apparent in its skit during which Ed K, Chris and Tom D donned rain jackets for a raucous rendition of – you guessed it – “Mud glorious mud” whilst being drenched in buckets of water by the rest of the team from bamboo city (check out their welcome sign which is out on site!)

But the gold star would have to go to the musical talents of Alpha 3, who performed a pitch-perfect round of frère jaques… with a twist. The team used whistling and (for the want of a more polite way to put it) fart noises to replicate the ditty. The Venturers then had a go with the traditional Indian holi paint... and these were the results... (below: Mani, Rosanna, Tom M and Emily J looking like a packet of M and Ms, and the whole gang getting dirty.)
Speaking of the Kappikadu crowd, on Friday the village was inaugurated with a Pooja ceremony attended by Raleigh Country Director Gavin Shelton and Centre for Tribal and Rural Development founder, Mr Ranganathan. It was a beautiful and culturally rich ceremony which was a highlight for the whole Alpha 3 group and struck home how important the houses are to the people of Kappikadu village.

But rather than hear about it from the Blog Boss (thanks Zoe’s Wrinklies for that name), we have another special guest blogger!

Fledgling journo, (who also just happens to be an expert concrete-carter and awesome trekker and is pictured left at the Kappikadu inauguration) Becca Musgrave took the time to put pen-to-paper about her experience at Kappikadu with the Alpha 3 group. Becca is now out at the new Alpha 3 environmental project building an anti-poaching camp at Bandipur National Park.

Read on!

Alpha 3: A tale of porridge politics, getting lost in translation and the real Raleigh story

When a group of Raleigh venturers come together from the realms of various Alpha groups to form a new team, differences in opinion are perhaps a given. In the case of Alpha 3 at the tribal village of Kappikadu, the transition was unexpectedly smooth save for the major issue surrounding Quakers’ finest product: Porridge.

It wasn’t tent politics, or difficulties on the work site, but it was an ongoing and heated debate about breakfast food which created a massive divide in the group. The root cause of the problem: PM Dr Andy. It was he who put forward the revolutionary idea of making porridge in one’s own mess tin. Far from the thick, creamy bowl of oaty goodness that we’d all come to know, we were now faced with an almost muesli-like dish to begin the day. For many of us, the simplicity and retained yumminess of the new way of cooking breakfast was enough to convince us, but for the remainder of the group they suffered with the memory of sweeter past porridge days.

However, after carting 2000 concrete blocks up and down hills, digging foundations and laying bricks, Alpha 3 discovered we were so much stronger than a mere battle of porridge politics and were able to overcome such trivialities to battle bigger problems, like thunderstorms. For much of the first week we came face-to-face with some of the most torrential storms that Tamil Nadu had to offer. This didn’t disrupt our fantastic progress on the houses, but did leave us stranded in our tents one night contemplating a supper of Kit Kat and Mentos. Usually, the local people of Kappikadu catered for us and the idea of a night without the local’s fab curry due to torrential bad weather was too much to handle. As a result, we decided if the food couldn’t come to our drenched campsite, we would go to the food and thus a line of Venturers sporting such unusual outfits as pyjama bottoms teamed with walking boots and waterproof rucksack covers trekked up the hill for dinner. The rather damp walk was well worth it and we were welcomed with typically open arms by the villagers for traditional Tamil fare by candlelight.

By far the highlight of this eventful evening however was Andy’s dance. Having been pronounced ‘the world’s strongest man’ and greatly thanked for all his hard work by our field coordinator, he preceded to crouch below the low thatched roof and crack out his finest dance moves. This confused the Venturers just as much as it confused the local people and we eventually discovered that Dr Andy thought the words “thank you” sounded like “dance.”
(Above: Frankie Chivers and PM Jenny Shotton paint the windows of a newly-constructed Kappikadu home)

Drama aside, the Alpha 3 camp fast became a home from home with chief interior designer, PM Jenny, creating shelters, showers and luxurious long drop seats. After long and hot days working out on site, returning to our little camp set amongst the tea plantations for cards, music and dinner was such a treat. This feeling of utter exhaustion in the evenings was well worth it. Having had a tour of the village and the various mud huts scattered across the sides of the valley we all came to truly understand the importance of the work that we were doing.
Although the tribal accommodation appears to blend romantically into the lush plantations, the reality of the locals’ way of life is far harsher as they struggled through monsoon season with snakes in their roofs. Their homes were at constant risk of destruction by elephants and flooding. Initially we believed we were providing these people with a simple, more secure alternative to their one room huts but as the local governor said, we were helping provide the people of Kappikadu ‘the basic human right to shelter’

After lengthy days of brick lugging and foundation digging the team were known to become slightly delirious, resorting to such simple yet effective forms of entertainment as farting. When gathered around the lantern, stomachs full of Emma’s trademark custard and the girls homemade banoffee pie, a sure fire way to make us all giggle was to make fart noises on our arms, in a round, to the tune of frère jaques. Let it not be said that Raleigh hasn’t taught us all the art of resourcefulness and the all important personal growth.

Before we knew it, our time in the village was drawing to a close and the inauguration of the new houses was upon us. This final day spent in the community was by far the most memorable as we thanked our project partners, the Centre for Tribal and Rural Development, and the awesome masons who we’d become so close to over the previous three weeks of hard work. In return we were generously thanked with shawls and garlands of fresh flowers.
(above: The Alpha 3 team with Raleigh Country Director Gavin Shelton, Deputy Programme Manager Danielle Esterhuysen, Monitoring and Evaluation researcher Julia Mitchell, HCV coordinator Vijay, members of the Centre for Tribal and Rural Development, and the people of Kappikadu.)

As the governor handed over the keys to the new owners of the homes we had helped build, the extent of our work became clear. We were all overwhelmed by the massive sense of achievement. No sooner had the ceremony finished but the villagers were moving in and cooking, a testament to the real difference that these houses Raleigh helped build will make to the lives of those in Kappikadu.

By Becca Musgrave

So there you have it, for those of you out in blogosphere, we sincerely apologise for the delay in posting of this blog and hope it as just the right length to let you finish your cup of tea. The good news is, this isn't all... we have another special guest blogger in the next couple of days, so stay tuned.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Phase three under construction

G'day avid blog followers. The final phase is upon us for Raleigh India 09C and the Venturers are out meeting their new Alpha groups with whom they will spend the next three weeks.

Just a bit of housekeeping:

Until now, Alpha 3 has been the Kappikadu housing community project. The homes the Raleigh Venturers built were opened on Friday with a ceremony in the village attended by our project partners, the Centre for Tribal and Rural Development, and Raleigh India representatives.

This phase, Alpha 3 will be an environmental phase involving construction of an anti-poaching camp in Bandipur National Park.

Now I have Venturers standing over my shoulder reading this keen to order the Raleigh India t-shirt (check out the logo below) so I'd better hurry up or I'll be in trouble.

More pictures and news on Monday!

Thursday 26 March 2009

Is it a bird...?

UPDATE: Five new explorers, Jasper, Gavin, Anuta, Emily and Zahra, arrived safe and sound at field base this lunchtime. They are currently settling in and looking forward to meeting their fellow venturers on Saturday. Rumour has it that tomorrow they may be climbing Chamundi Hill very early in the morning...

PRO Peta is once again absent from field base, searching out juicy gossip in Alphas 3 and 4. So the task of writing the Thursday blog falls to me, Admin Lucy, and my trusty assistant Medic Andrew (pictured, right, attempting to make a piñata for a Mexican evening at changeover).

I am sure all you avid blog readers want to know the latest news from the Alpha groups. Well, don’t worry, we will get to that in good time. However, first of all we need to fill you in on the events that have had all of us here at field base biting our nails in nervous anticipation. Yes: our fledgling owls are learning to fly.

As far as we can make out, one little owlet (pictured, left, with Amanda and Andrew) fell, jumped, or was pushed from the nest early yesterday morning. It spent the day gathering its strength in one of the vines in the field base quad, psyching itself up for a flight in the evening. Despite some serious encouragement from CPM Mark (in the form of imitation owl hooting, some carefully positioned pillows, and the threatened use of a big stick) it couldn’t be persuaded to take the plunge.

Finally, after Mark and his stick had left, the owl decided to go for it. This was, of course, after we’d all given up watching it, and gone away to make dinner. When we returned half an hour later it was on our dinner table. It wasn’t keen on sharing our dinner though, or the tin of tuna Amanda opened for it, and instead hopped away to explore the quad. We were a little concerned that it didn’t seem to be able to fly high enough to make it back home. However, it’s pretty safe here at field base, and owly successfully survived its first night in the big wide world without being eaten by the Chamundi leopard. This morning its brother or sister has decided to join it, and so there are now two sleepy little owlets hanging out in the quad.

Anyway, now that I’ve bored you all with the latest from Bill Oddie’s Owl Watch, perhaps I’ll get on with telling you what the alpha groups have been up to. In fact, they’re all now in their final few days of phase 2, and will be back at field base for a shower in only two days time.

(Felicity, Hannah, Sumith, Murgesh and Hobby, perhaps excited by the prospect of getting properly clean)

The good news is that Alpha 1 have completed their trek, and should by now be rafting down the Periyar River on homemade bamboo rafts. Photographer Annie and PM Ivan have just returned from the final loop visit to Alpha 1 and can report that the trekkers are still in good spirits despite the odd leech bite and blister (right, Medic Caz taping Holly's feet for one last day of walking).

Alpha 2, who have been ahead of schedule with their toilets all the way, are now putting the final finishing coats of whitewash on their 15 eco sanitation units. Despite finishing early, they have not been idle, and have been filling their spare time with teaching in the local primary and secondary schools, organising a sports day and music lessons. They have also managed to squeeze in a cultural evening and a casino night. I am told that Hamish is the undisputed poker champion. I seem to recall that Hamish also acquired the werewolf crown whilst in Alpha 1, so I must remember not to play betting games with him in future.

There is no rest for Alpha 3, on the other hand. They are still working hard (work is even proceeding after dark now) to finish the tribal houses in time for their inauguration on 27 March. The loop is on their way to visit Alpha 3 as I type, and rumour has it that a bin bag party has been planned for this evening. Hopefully all the FB staff can live up to the impressive costumes Alpha 3 are known for engineering.

Finally, Alpha 4 are apparently so ahead of schedule that they don’t need to bother with work: they spent yesterday having a massive mud fight. I suppose that’s one thing to do when it’s raining. They also had the inspired idea of a fairy godmother day – each person has an anonymous ‘fairy godmother’ whose task it is to make that person’s day a little bit nicer in whatever way they can. Lots of cups of tea were made, I understand. Perhaps lots of muddy clothes were washed too...?

In only two days time all the venturers will be back here in field base, receiving their allocations for the final phase of the expedition. In between learning our role as owl parents, we at FB have been planning lots of good stuff for the venturers at changeover, including a Mexican-style party for Saturday night. More news on that, and a final update on phase 2, will be posted by Peta next Monday.

Have a nice weekend! (We will :)

Monday 23 March 2009

Hosekersunda revisited: The real Raleigh story


Blog comments have just come in from Alpha 1 (the trekkers). Check out the comments section at the end of this blog to see if there's a reply for you...

Welcome to your Monday blog double-whammy!

Today we've posted two blogs:

The first is a special report by Dr Julia Mitchell who, among other things, is developing a monitoring and evaluation programme for Raleigh India. This means Dr Mitchell is returning to previous project sites to evaluate the long-term impact of Raleigh's projects on the lives of people living in rural and remote India. Already Dr Mitchell has discovered Raleigh is fondly remembered by those who have come into contact with our venturers and volunteer managers.

The second is your stock-standard Raleigh wrap-up from the past few days of work out in the Alpha groups, featuring such tales as the Alpha 4 love chair, the Alpha 2 goat fiasco and the finals days of walking for the trekking group.

Read on!

(above: Deputy Programme Manager Dani Esterhuysen (left) with the members of the Hosekersunda community, the location of Raleigh India's first eco-sanitation project 12 months ago. The women are pictured looking at the 08i magazine and spotting photographs from their home village.)

By volunteer manager Julia Mitchell

Hey everyone, I am very excited to be able to tell everyone what I have been up to recently....... part of my many roles here at Raleigh India is the implementation of our project monitoring and evaluation, thus investigating our project outcomes. Therefore as well as being part of the loop visit down to Alpha 2 this week, I visited a village where Raleigh previously worked in our first expedition 08C at this time last year.

I met with the small community of Hosekersunda, a rural tribal village situated on the beautiful Kabini reservoir in Karnataka, which is less than a 20-minute drive from Raleigh's current eco-sanitation project at Kalaianahalla. Raleigh constructed 30 eco-sanitation toilets at Hosekersunda as Raleigh India's debut community project in February 2008. Before Raleigh built the eco-sanitation units, the residents of the village had no access to proper sanitation.

When we arrived it looked as if the whole village had turned out to greet us and welcome us into the village school where we held our meeting. Sitting cross legged in a big circle, ladies on one side gentlemen on the other, I felt rather nervous armed with my many questions.

After going through the pleasantries of recording who was attending the meeting and being introduced – a custom fervently adhered to in India, signatures and names recorded we began. Before I could even start with my first question the community spokes person sprung to his feet and delivered a speech prepared by the community.

At first they admitted they were afraid of what it would be like having people from else where coming and living and working at Hosekersunda. However their fears were unfounded as they said once Raleigh arrived they could not believe how hard working, kind and open the Raleigh people were throughout all three phases. They said they were now using the toilets and said Raleigh had done a wonderful job in building them.

The women especially said they now had no anxieties while relieving themselves as the toilets were private. Previously when using the surrounding forest and fields, the women said exposing themselves to male residents was a constant worry. In addition all the villagers said they felt as if their village was cleaner and their health was better as a result of having the toilets.

As the meeting continued and villagers eagerly answered our questions, and one lady started crying. She said she was overwhelmed when remembering the people who had visited and worked in her village. She said she thought everyday how lucky she was to have the toilets and remembered the friendships she made. The whole village could not believe people from the other side of the world would come and want to help their community, live with them, eat their food and wear their style of dress. For them not to be looked down upon and scorned for the way they live. They said that when building the toilets, the Raleigh people became part of the community, part of their family and they would never be forgotten.

In meeting with the community of Hosekersunda I realised Raleigh had done some much more than just build toilets. They had changed the lives of people for the better, left behind memories and stories that will always be remembered and told, making the residents and the Raleigh participants global citizens.

Are you a former Raleigh venturer? Post a comment!

Love, English, and the Wolf at Raleigh India

(Above: Shenola, Mani and Liz with the children at Jagankorte school in Kalaianahalla)

Country Programme Manager Mark Ashby, Administrator Lucy and photographer Anni have just returned from Alpha 2 where the eco-sanitation gang are cracking along with their 15 units.

Yesterday the team had the day off and headed to the Golden Temple which Hamish described as an "awesome" experience.

Mark said the Alpha 2 troops had also been painting the English alphabet on the walls of the school where they are staying during their down time, to help the class learn the alphabet. The team have also been to a high-school in a nearby village to help students who are due to undergo English exams shortly.

But that's not all from "team toilet", they have also been fixing up the school playground. The picture below is of a climbing frame which, when Raleigh first arrived in Kalaianahalla was on its side and covered in rust.

Now the green 8ft tall construction is loved by the school's 30 pupils!

(above: Mark, Lucy and some of the pupils at the Jagankorte school)

As for the other Alpha groups...

Out at Alpha 4 it's been pelting rain a fair bit, resulting in Will Jaggard asking Fieldbase to use the endless power of Google to look up the words to "mud, mud, glorious mud", presumably to sing while they're digging irrigation trenches.

So for the benefit of our readers, here is the chorus from not-the-Disney-version of the hippopotamus song, with a link to the full lyrics if you really want them (thanks Zoe's Wrinklies for sorting me out on that one):

“Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let m
e wallow in glorious mud”

(Above: Sopha gets a quick pash from Tom D and Chris in Alpha 4's now-notorious swinging "love chair")

The gang out at basha city have also been getting a bit amorous, with the creation of a “love chair.”

The chair, built entirely from bamboo, string, a stretcher and creative genius, is the latest construction from the troops at Anaikatty and it can even swing, although reports are it sounds a bit tenuous when in motion.

Tom De Wilton also nicked Anni's camera and came up with a few rather creative photographs...
Thank you kindly to Zoe's Wrinklies for tracking down the link of the picture the lads were replicating here. apart from being the other way around, I thought it was a pretty good effort!

Meanwhile Alpha 4 has taken a trip to an elephant sancturary today and are expected to take a hike tomorrow to check out the region surrounding their campsite.

(A4's strongmen from left: PMs Neil and Peter with CPM Mark, Parthi, Tjebbe, Sophia, Ed K, Chris and Sreejith)

On to Alpha 3, where the Fieldbase informants have told us that the Wolf of the Werewolf game (a very popular card game) made a guest appearance at their dress-up party, cleverly disguised as Emma Wood.

Frankie went as Little Red Riding Hood, Roo dressed up as Eve and Becca donned a turban to go as Aladdin.

But the best dressed had to go to Flash-dance’s own Jo Davies, a self-confessed child of the 80s.

(Holy disguises, Batman! Frankie, Jo, Roo, Sarah, Becca, Alex and Ed dressed up for a party)

Tomorrow a loop vehicle will leave Fieldbase to do a circuit around Alpha 4 and 3, arriving in time for an inauguration ceremony of Alpha 3's 14 houses for the members of Kappikadu village.

Rumour has it they're also planning a bin-bag party (not for the inauguration though!) so expect some photos of funky creations early next week.

And finally, on to our trekkers who are in their final days of transport upon Shanks's pony. Last night they caught up with Ivan and Anni on the loop at the spectacular campsite at Vagamon, so again, there will be some photographs coming back.

The bad news is they got absolutely drenched yesterday, but the good news is Anni and Ivan took pity on them and cooked them dinner, so they will be well-fed for their second-last day of trekking today.

And finally, at Fieldbase:

Andrew spent this week digging a hole as part of a fire-pit upgrade.

After 10 hours toiling in the blistering sun, Andrew was advised that the fire pit location was
undesirable as it upset the Vastu (kind of like Indian feng shui) of Fieldbase quad.

So yesterday, Andrew filled in the hole… then dug another hole, precisely two metres from the first hole, which was fine according to the Vastu. He’s since filled it with concrete. Andrew has become a one-man Alpha group.

Re-reading this blog, it looks like it's all just been fun, games and parties out at the Alpha groups. Let me assure you, they have been working incredibly hard!

The groups have been working to ensure the Kappikadu houses are finished on time for the opening ceremony this week, the elephant-proof fence is up and functioning to protect both elephants and crops around Anaikatty, that the 15 eco-sanitation units for this phase get done on time to make sure each family in Kalaianahalla has access to appropriate sanitation, and they have been trekking up and down the mountains of Kerala in sometimes very tough conditions.

As Phase Two nears it's end, the venturers are now staring down the barrel of their last phase with Raleigh India. Let the adventure continue!

Oh, and finally: birthday wishes!

To explorer Fiona Applewhite, happy birthday from everyone at Raleigh, especially all the recovering Phase One Alpha 1s! We hope you have a brilliant day.

To Andrea, from Peta...
Happy birthday, I miss you heaps. xxx

Thursday 19 March 2009

We built this (basha) city on rock and soul

News flash: More blog responses from Alpha 2 have arrived, see the "comments" section attached to this blog if you are waiting to hear from someone!

(above: Tom D, Sofa, Tjebbe, Claire, Eveline, Ed and Esmee getting clean in the check dam at Alpha 4. All pictures by Gavin Shelton)
Hello avid blog followers!
Today Country Director Gavin Shelton returned to Fieldbase after scouting out a new trek route for future Raleigh programmes, which took him and PM Ivan Phillips through the Alpha Four campsite.

"I have to say, the Alpha Four campsite is just amazing, they have really put in a lot of effort and it looks wonderful," Gavin said.

He said the group was working at a cracking pace repairing the solar-powered elephant-proof fence that protects the village of Anaikatty from wildlife including wild boar, deer, bison and of course elephants.

"It was really wonderful to see some of the fields within the boundary of the fence becoming green and growing well now they are protected by the fence," he said.

(picture: the mess tin tree at Alpha Four and below, the Alpha 4 basha-based campsite)

The group is also reinforcing the fence by digging some lengths of elephant-proof trench, as the fence repairing project was going so well.

"They have also been getting involved with the local community which is great to see," he said.

The next loop vehicle with Programme Administrator Lucy, Country Programme Manager Mark Ashby and photographer Ann Taylor is due back later today, so there will be more tales from the projects in the next couple of days.

In the mean time, Alpha 2 is set to visit the monks at the Golden Temple, at Alpha 3 rumours have been emanating about a fancy dress dinner, and at Alpha 1, they've done amazing times with their trekking and pitched in to hire a dorm room for a night so are no doubts feeling a little more refreshed after a real bed and wash.

Standby for more news from the Alpha groups

(Above: PM Peter leads Ed, Parthi, Eveline, Sreejith and the rest of Alpha Four to work)

Monday 16 March 2009

Tales from Kerala and Fieldbase antics

(Above: Phase Two Fieldbase medic Andrew Cox reading a bit of Emily Bronte during poetry night)

Happy Monday everyone!

We sincerely hope you all survived Friday 13th and had a wonderful weekend, we've heard it's started to warm up (cough... really??) in Europe. As for India, it's finally started raining which is great for the forest but does cause some complications for our intrepid workers out on the proejcts. (pictures: Rain cascading off the Fieldbase roof and Logistics Manager Amanda Ockwell preparing the many, many loop requests from Alpha 4.)

This morning our able admin volunteer Lucy, photographer Anni and country programme manager Mark jumped into the Raleigh SUV with Girish to head out to a triple-loop to Alpha 2, 3 and 4. So there will be lots of news from them towards the end of the week. (pictured: Mark Ashby preparing for the triple-loop visit)

For the rest of us at Fieldbase, we've continued our cultural tour of Mysore which started last week when we attended a performance of a string quartet from the Vienna Chamber Orchestra who were o tour of India. (I will also point out that right now as I write this, Andrew is also extending is cultural diversity by playing Britney Spears really loudly in the Fieldbase office.)

We’ve also been to the Mysore art gallery and had a poetry night, which Dani opened with a quote from the
Dead Poet’s society before reading Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, If.

Our resident Scot recited a poem by Scotland's favourite son, Robbie Burns, Andrew got into a bit of Emily Bronte, I read the Banjo Patterson classic "Clancy of the Overflow" and Mark…

Well we think Mark read
this "poem" by the literary behemoth that is someone called Ne-Yo.
We have also discovered one of Fieldbase's lesser-known residents, an owl which lives in a hollowed-out coconut tree in the courtyard, has hatched a little owlet, which has got all of us chasing away the miner birds which have been trying to oust the owl and take over the Fieldbase nesting post.

And now, for a quick whip-around the Alpha groups...

Alpha 1 had a day off yesterday and went to the village of Nedumkandam where they picked up some chicken for dinner, ably-cooked by super- guide Aaron. The trekkers did get a bit on the damp side with a downpour shortly after deployment but fortunately they’ve been visited by Lucy and Vijay on the loop who took out a swag full of wet weather gear.

At Alpha 2, they’ve replaced a few plastic chairs that got broken at the school and have put in some requests for paint to decorate the Jagankorte school where they’re staying. PM Matt celebrated a birthday, and on that note, Fieldbase has received a loop request from fellow A2 PM, Liz, for earplugs as she's sharing a tent with Matt and apparently, he snores.

At Alpha 3, they’ve relocated the Raleigh campsite down the hill and yesterday took an excursion to a nearby waterfall. At a guess there was probably a bit of water coming down it because on their second night at Kappikadu, a couple of tents got washed out in a good bit of rain.

And at Alpha 4, the bamboo city is going well with the most recent addition to the Anaikatty camp being a super-sized teepee complete with fire in the middle of it to protect them from the downpours that have been soaking everyone. Today they've gone to Massanagudi, a nearby village, to have lunch.

And now, we have a special-guest blogger who has just returned from the trek loop! Thanks to Lucy Holloway for putting fingers-to-keyboard for this one.

Hi everyone. This is guest-blogger Lucy here, standing in for PRO Peta while she is busily selecting pictures for the Raleigh magazine from the (literally) thousands taken by photographer Annie, and the thousands more taken by the Venturers. Although the photos look amazing, it’s a hard job, and I’m glad it’s not me that has to do it!

Vijay, 60/60 and I have just returned from a four day jaunt down to visit the trekkers in Kerala where we dropped off some much-needed supplies. I can report that the trekkers are getting on really well, despite some heavy rain that took them a little by surprise (Vijay and I made a lot of people happy by arriving with a bag of assorted waterproofs on Friday evening). They are all enjoying themselves, and even the rain can’t keep them down - the general consensus is that it’s actually better than the sun, as it makes walking uphill easier!

(Below: The new Alpha 1 trekking group hit their straps)
On Thursday, the trekkers successfully climbed the second highest mountain in India outside of the Himalayas. The day was made even more special as it was Zoe’s 19th birthday. She reported that it was the best birthday she’d ever had, having a bit of everything: fantastic scenery; great achievement; and even a bit of excitement and adversity, when she was forced to abandon her tent in the middle of the night due to the river that suddenly developed running through it. All was well in the end though, as she and her two tent-mates were able to sleep inside a nearby shelter, which remained dry (ish) all night.

When we met the trekkers on Friday evening they had just completed one of their longest days. Despite having been on the road for nearly ten hours, they all remained upbeat and were very pleased to see us. I am sure that had nothing to do with the fifty-odd bars of chocolate we were carrying in the car in the Raleigh shop. The trekkers reported that on their way to meet us they had seen an elephant, and nearly lost their guide and several members of Alpha 1 (including Angel and Rosanna) in the depths of a muddy bog. Thankfully all the Venturers were safely extracted from the mud, although the same can’t be said for Zoe’s and Murgesh’s sandals.

I awoke on Saturday morning to the sound of the whole of Alpha 1 (who were now used to getting up at 5 am in the morning) singing ‘happy birthday’ to Hannah. The day was bright and clear, and some of the more bloodthirsty members of Alpha 1 were already discussing plans to cook a chicken curry from scratch in honour of Hannah’s birthday when they reached their campsite later that afternoon. Sadly Vijay, 60/60 and I did not get to enjoy the curry, as we had to get starting on our two-day journey back to field base. We did, however, take a sneak peek at the campsite they were heading for (where they spent a well-deserved rest day on Sunday), and can report that it is lovely, and even comes complete with its own ducks.

I envy the trekkers immensely - Kerala really is beautiful, and the mountains they are trekking through are simply stunning. I am not sure I envy them their food however, which consists mainly of tuna and pasta, tuna and noodles, or tuna and rice. And porridge, of course.

(Above: Guna, Angel and Zoe with... well, we're not entirely sure.)