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

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

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Don't cry because it's over, laugh because it happened: 09C wraps up.

Goodbye, and thank you.

Thank you to all the blog followers who came on the India 09C expedition via the wonders of cyberspace. To those who commented on the blog (probably when they should have been doing work!) to get messages to their loved ones on expedition, you made a huge difference to the venturers and project managers out on the sites.

Thank you to all the parents and friends who encouraged the venturers and volunteer managers of 09C to put away 10 (or 12, or 14) weeks of their lives to join a Raleigh expedition and make a difference in the world, both to themselves and those who have benefited from our projects.

Thank you to the Raleigh head office team who have been a huge support to the volunteer managers and permanent staff on the ground in the Mysore field base.

Thank you to the Raleigh permanent staff: Country Programme Manager Mark Ashby, Facilities Manager Deepak, Host Country Venturer coordinator (the immensley talented) Vijay, Logistics Manager Amanda Ockwell, drivers 60/60, Girish and Manju, security guard Ashok, to the cleaners and the caterers, to Ravi the taxi driver: Thank you for making 09C an amazing expedition.

To Country Director Gavin Shelton (pictured below, with Helen), who today hangs up his Raleigh t-shirt for the last time, we all thank you and wish you all the best. Those who have worked with him know the time and effort Gavin put in to getting the Raleigh India expedition off the ground to become a roaring success has been extraordinary. The story of Mark and Gavin arriving in India with nothing more than a credit card and a laptop with a view to creating an expedition base is fondly (and often) recounted.

To the volunteer managers Ivan, Julia, Dani, Jenny, Neil, Lucy, Caz, Dr Andy, Andrew, Paul, Savage, Liz, Matt, Joey and Anni: You came from all walks of life to join Raleigh 09C, thank you for committing to making this expedition something truly extraordinary.

And to the venturers:

Well done!! Thank you for choosing to make a difference to your lives, and to the world around you.

Make Raleigh count: take this experience with you and apply it to your lives.

Join the Raleigh alumni group, load your pictures to Facebook, and make a lot of noise about your Raleigh experience so that others might have the chance to take the same journey.

In a phrase often quoted by Gavin Shelton from anthropoligist Margaret Mead:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has."

PLUG: Our amazing photographer Ann Taylor will be heading back to the UK in the coming weeks. She has done a remarkable job capturing the story of the Raleigh 09C expedition. And she's not too bad at portraiture either, check these out!

(above: Fieldbase medic Caz Stephens)

(Below: the three witches of field base, from left: Dr Julia Mitchell, Blog Boss Rule, Deputy Programme Manager Danielle Esterhuysen)
You can check out Ann's website
here, she's available for photographic work in the UK's north-east.

All the best everyone,

The 09C team

Monday 20 April 2009

When an end is really a beginning...

(above: Sofia "Sofa" Maudslay is comforted by PM Liz Allen at the conclusion of Raleigh 09C.)

Hear that?

That silence is the vacuum created by 70 absent venturers, all of have fled field base for the next step of their adventures.

Now, before your Blog Boss waxes lyrical on the human condition and all things ending and beginning, let's put some minds at ease: The entire 09C cohort have left Raleigh safety after an amazing washup party and many (many) tearful farewells.

The BA 118 flight back to the UK carrying 13 venturers left from Bangalore airport on time (at something like 5am this morning. Ouch) and everyone else spent their first night unguarded by project managers in Mysore.

So with the knowledge that everyone left Raleigh safe and happy, read on!

(Below: Host country venturer Mani gets a bear hug from Emily Jenkinson)

Here's a quick analysis of the 09C expedition:
- 12,000km trekked in Kerala
- 45 eco-sanitation units built for every family in Kalaiahnahalla
- 14 homes built for those who previously did not have them in Kappikadu
- 800 residents in and around Anaikatty village protected by elephants
- And elephants in Bandipur national park protected from people with an anti-poaching camp!
- 500 copies of the expedition magazine printed
- 115,000 words written on the blog in 34 posts and 948 comments
- 6000 photographs taken (by the photographer and helpers)
- 113 rolls of zinc oxide tape were used, along with...
- 600 rolls of toilet paper!
- Four lost trangia handles
- 150 tins of tuna
- 100 destroyed tent pegs...
- And the sanity of one public relations officer.

Washup started with the venturers rolling in to field base on their buses from their respective camp sites after a string of inauguration ceremonies to officially open the work of Raleigh India.

On the first night, we watched a slide show of photographer Ann Taylor's beautiful images, which was carefully put together by host Country Venturer coordinator Vijay. The show was an emotional roller-coaster which captured the highs and (far less frequent) lows of expedition life, featuring everything from photographs of Holly Gottlieb's huge blisters during trek to Guna's spectacular dance moves.

On Saturday, the venturers cleaned themselves (we promise!), field base and their kit before gearing up for a fashion parade.

Each alpha group were asked to create costumes to fit three categories: work wear, traditional dress and formal wear...

...there are three billion words in the English language and quite frankly, I can't think of any to describe the fashion that went on show so instead, check out the pictures and let us know how you would describe it!

Alpha 1 represented by: William Jaggard, Leanne Moses, Claire de Vries, Eveline Bloemandal, Charlie Howell and Tom de Wilton

Alpha 2 represented by: Hobby, Rosanna Townsend, Anuta Pardeshi, Remi Bumstead, Tjebbe Lodeizen, Angel Jordan-Akiwumi and Parthi
Alpha 3, represented by Alex Langman, Tilly Wallace, Hamish Roberts, Ella Dryden, Becca Musgrave and Gavin Harrop
Alpha 4 represented by Mubarak, Sarah Khalil, Jo Morton, Ricardo Davis, Seb Bush-Hipwood, Alli Legge, James Windsor-Clive and Guna
The parade was ably compered by field base's most glamorous pairing, Deputy Programme Manager Danielle Esterhuysen and medic Andrew Cox who almost stole the show, if not for James Windsor-Clive's stunning catwalk entry, the pricefetched for auctioning Ricardo and Hamish's great attempt at being dapper.

A huge chicken barbecue was followed by an emotional round of speeches and thank yous, particularly for India Country Director Gavin Shelton, who announced that Raleigh 09C would be his last expedition.

(Above: Gavin addressing the 09C cohort for the last time.)

Gavin received a book of memories, photographs and notes from his friends, family, past and present venturers and volunteer managers, and was thanked with a standing ovation from the crowd.

(Below: Tjebbe Lodeizen, Zoe Hamersley, Jo Morton and Ed Kneale lead a standing ovation in recognition of Gavin's 18 months establishing and steering Raleigh India.)

The following day - Sunday - bought more emotion as the venturers packed their bags and prepared for life after Raleigh.

Our eight host country venturers were the first to wave goodbye and there were many tears as Guna spoke to the entire cohort, saying just how much he had gained from being part of Faleigh India.

(Below: Akhil, Mubarak, Sumith, Mani, Guna, Sreejith, Mukesh and Parthi loading up the Bravo vehicle to head home)

And before we knew it, it was time for everyone else to board the bus to Mysore or Bangalore in a ceremony that had a touch of finality about it as hugs were shared and tears were shed.

And that, in the words of Jim Morrison, is the end, my friend.

I've had a few comments wanting more photographs so I'm going to do the contemporary thing and suggest if you want more from Raleigh India, you can join the Facebook group. Search for "India 09C" and it should be pretty easy to find, you'll see lots of familiar faces in the members from the photographs on this blog and with luck everyone will start loading their photographs there over the coming weeks.

Tomorrow is the last day for the staff here at fieldbase. Tomorrow night the entire gang will board a train to Mangalore to unwind from 14 weeks of fieldbase and project.

And just to prove how much I don't really want this to end... expect the final post... tomorrow.

Friday 17 April 2009

rub-a-dub dub, 70 venturers in a tub

Hi all.

As previously mentioned, washup starts today.

All the venturers are returning from their respective project sites to debrief and party after 10 long weeks of expedition.

They will also be suitably scrubbed before being allowed to leave Raleigh, although we're not sure whether that is where the term "wash-up" comes from.

Check back early next week for all the latest news from Raleigh's end (and a photograph of that illusive tiger!!).

All the best,
Blog Boss Rule and the Fieldbase henchmen

Monday 13 April 2009

The final count-down...

(Above: Sreejith on a river cruise restaurant, Raleigh style.)

Greetings avid blog followers.

I am pleased to present to you a blog with a headline reminiscent of yet another excellent 80s song title. The first one was "We built this basha city on rock and soul" which was, of course, a reference to Bernie Taupin's classic of 1985.

The point? Well, let's be honest here: After 32 blogs, 92,0000 words, 771 blog comments and possibly my first grey hair, we have reached the final week of Raleigh India.

[insert sigh of sadness/relief here]

And whilst looking for a snappy and readable headline for this edition, all I could keep thinking of was the ditty by Sweden's favourite sons of the 80s, Europe. Perhaps I'm scraping the the bottom of the cliche barrel as we trudge relentlessly towards the 100,000-word mark for the Raleigh India blog in what is most definitely the final countdown of this expedition.

But I think it's more likely that I'm procrastinating from giving you the Raleigh round-up for this week, becuase it will be one of the last times I will have the pleasure.

So, now that you're no-doubt humming Final Countdown to yourself (and if you don't know the song, you're probably wondering what on earth this blog is about) settle in to read the news as we launch into the last week of Raleigh 09C.

This week the Alpha Groups are finishing off their repective projects and planning for a series of inauguration ceremonies.

The cohort will return to Fieldbase on Friday for a series of activities called "wash-up", which is set to include a fashion parade, photograph exhibition, a party, endless games, and no-doubt some tearful farewells as the venturers prepare for life after Raleigh.

In the meantime, they're enjoying their last days on expedition! At Alpha 2, the gang continued their dressing up antics in the town of Kalaiahnahalla with a "weird" party, and rumour has it at least one venturer used badminton paraphernalia in their costume. Weird indeed.

Yesterday team toilet actually came back to Mysore to go to a GRS fantasty water park. They were joined by finance manager Paul Billet has since told me he got a great suntan and the venturers were in great form.

(below: Hobby and Remi show their enthusiasm when the fieldbase vehicle reached Kalaiahnahalla earlier this week.)

At Alpha 3, resident art-fanatic Hamish has been carving a totem-pole in honour of the two project managers, who have become known as Princess Jenny and Queen Andrew.

The race is on to complete the pole before the end of phase, as the Anti-poaching Camp will officially be opened on Thursday by the field director of Bandipur National Park and Tiger Reserve, Dr Raju.

After that, the gang go on an exclusive safari trip deep into Bandipur courtesy of the Karnataka Forest Department. The safari has been arranged as a thank-you for the hard work of the Alpha group, who finished the anti-poaching camp ahead of schedule.

(above: the almost-completed anti-poaching camp in the depths of Indian forest)

We are sure there are plenty of fingers crossed for another tiger sighting, but as we have all learnt in India, it is always a good idea to expect the unexpected!

(Below: PM Andrew with the totem pole in progress)

Over at Alpha 4, the group battled India’s public transport system to get to the tourist town of Ooty where in appropriate biblical style they discovered there was no room at the inn they had booked.

Fortunately it was only a two-hour wait of negotiating and searching before Team Elephant Fence found some alternate accommodation but it wasn’t really needed because the gang ended up nightclubbing in complete sobriety until the early hours. Meanwhile, PMs Neil and Matt spent the evening in Coffee Day like a pair of grandfathers, apparently not wanting to cramp the style of Guna on the dance floor! Unfortunately I have no pictures from the grand aventure up the mountain but please expect some soon.

And now, on to the trekkers, Alpha 1!

I have a super-special blog edition for you today from Alpha 1. Not only do we have a special-guest blogger in the form of Phase 2 and 3 explorer, Alex Watling, we have also welcomed back to field base photographer Anni who has brought with her a host of wonderful photographs from her 10 days out with the trekking group.

Before you start reading Alex's blog entry, we here at blog headquarters would like to issue this warning: Both the PRO and Alex speak with antipodean accents. This blog must be read with long vowel sounds reminiscent of a Neighbours character for it to make sense.

Read on!

(above: Eveline and Emma lead the Phase 3 Alpha 1 trekking group)

(picture: special guest blogger complete with Australian accent, Alex Watling)

Phase 3 kicked off with a spring in its stride. For Alpha 1, which consisted of the remaining 21 venturers who had not already completed the 200km Misappuli Mala trek, it was a daunting and exciting prospect. The 19 day trek promised to be the most challenging phase of our Raleigh experience and would show us the best of what Kerala had to offer.

It all started on a Sunday afternoon sorting through tents, porridge and the two recommended pairs of socks we were ordered to take. With occasional wise words from our mountain leader Ivan, it became very quickly apparent that this was going to be a strong group. One spine-tingling speech from Mark later, and our excitement was confirmed as we set off in for the two-day bus journey to the trek start in Kerala's Silent Valley.

Having underestimated the length of the bus journey, ipod batteries ran low very quickly, as did our junk-food supplies. However, spirits remained high, helped by a beef lunch just over the Kerala border. Beef is a rare treat in India and Kerala is reknowned for its food.

A quick overnight stop at an isolated hall saw the group rested, except for poor old Dr Andy who spend the night running to, and from, the toilets thanks to a staggering bout of D & V. Don't worry, he recovered quickly.

Another quick trip on the bus took us through steem mounatins and endless tea plantationt to our final spot. Water filled, packs on, we took our first momentous steps on the trek.


Thirty-five minutes later, we arrived at the campsite.

To be honest, that was a bit of an anti-climax after having heard tales of the struggle and desperation of the first day from the previous trek groups. However, we settled in and took in the mountainous viewed and ate our first trekking meal of rice, baked beans and tuna.
(Above: a big landmark on day six of trekking)

An early wake-up of 4.30am greeted our summit day. We broke camp and set off abotu 6am and walked strongly during the morning, reaching the summit at 11.30am.

We had heard tales of awe about the view from the top of Misappuli Mala, the second-highest peak in southern India, from the other group. And we were no different, the views from the top were spectacular, an unforgettable panarama of layered mountain peaks, distant sillhouettes amongst low clouds.

I will remember it always as a classic, definitive gap year moment.

A trip down the mountain was steep and trecherous and some used their ingenuity by sliding down the mountain on their arses (read more about that in Holly's blog)

Lost cigarette packets, anti-histamine packets and sewing kits were the result but we did save time and as a result, arrived at the world's highest tea plantation for a tour well ahead of schedule. We had a tour, some tea, then headed for our next campsite.
(Above: trekkers Ed Kneale, Eveline, Emily O and Petrina around the campfire during the trek)

Waking up the next morning was another surreal experience. We scrambled on top of big rock that overlooked views not so far inferior to that from the summit of the mountain, but this time it was with a 5.30am sunrise.

An uneventful walking day followed until we were abruptly stopped by one of our guides, telling us to be extremely quiet as there were two wild elephants in the area. Shortly after, we were told to run down a hill and back up another until we found ourselves at a small house overlooking a hill where we could see two, enormous elephants.

We followed a path and met two bird watchers who seemed more interested in a three-inch bird than they were the 12ft-wide elephants. Within an hour, we arrived at our third campside overlooking a lake where we could have a much-needed wash.

Afternoon activities includeda game of rounders, washing, swimming and for Chris... alone time. (pictured below)

The game of rounders was played with a stick and a ball of socks. Arguments are still going on as to whether Will actually made it to third base before Juliette tagged him.

The scenery continued to be amazing through the next few days and we noticed the villages we passed were getting larger.

On day 10, we reached Kumily, the biggest town we had encountered on our travels for a well-earned rest night. Sleeping in a small hotel was our retward and we enjoyed all things Western: beef, internet, clothes, cigarettes, television and a real bed. Some of the group even treated themselves to a night out at the cinema, where the latest Bollywood release was showing.

Ed, Tom and I had an Indian hairbut and came out looking 12 years younger. Even Ivan had some hair removed from the forest growing on his chin.


And from here, the blog boss will have to fill in the gaps for you because this is where Alex's blog entry ended.

Today the trekkers are on their first rafting day, and tomorrow they will finish up their epic adventure before boarding a bus and coming back to Fieldbase to celebrate the end of their expedition.

So that's it from Raleigh India for today.

If you haven't done it already, please do tell your mates about the Global Giving link that will help build homes for people living in remote Indian villages. Find the link on the right-hand column of this blog, and the instructions at the bottom of the Good Friday blog post.

You can even give your friends the link to the inauguration blog which has lots of info about the houses.

There will not be a new blog post for a few days now as most of the fieldbase staff will be out at inauguration ceremonies or preparing for washup.

Rest assured I will post new updates on how the end of expedition really goes as soon as practicable.

Happy last week of expedition, everyone.


Friday 10 April 2009

Easter Friday

(above: Tjebbe and Remi learn a few Kannada words from the villagers at Kalaiahnahalla)

Today our Alpha groups are celebrating Easter as best they can, mostly involving painting up chicken eggs (eggs of the chocolate variety are hard to come by in remote India) and there is talk of making hot-cross damper bread, which is a strange combination of Easter tradition wrapped in a traditional Australian recipe and prepared over a campfire in the depths of remote India.

We'll let you know how the guys get on with that one.

However, no doubt you're after news from the sites this long weekend, so here goes:

lpha 1: is over the half-way point through the trek and this week had some precious time in the town of Kumilli to get online. There are a few wayward comments on this blog as a result (thanks, Chris A for that) but they're back on track and will meet the second Loop vehicle on Monday. Lucy Holloway (this week's special guest blogger) will join the trekkers, who have had great but hot weather and amazing views, for the final days, including the two-day raft down the spectacular Periyar river. Trek leader Ivan Phillips said this morning the team had pulled together and had consistently reached camps well ahead of schedule.

"We pushed our rest day back to day 10 because the team was doing so well," he said. As a result, the trekkers are resting up today before the final push.
(Above: Peter Pan (Remi) and Captain Hookless (PM Joey))

As you would have read yesterday, half of Alpha 2 spent the day on safari and actually saw a tiger, much to the chagrin of Raleigh India Country Director Gavin Shelton, who in his 15 months in India is yet to see one of the majestic big cats. The safari also included a boat trip and the guys were all safe and well back in Kalaiahnahalla last night. The PMs were particularly conscientious to do a head count and make sure no wayward venturers got carried away by a large, striped, suspicious-looking feline. This week they also had a fancy dress party with a Disney theme, which was attended by Captain Hook, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, at least one of the 101 Dalmations, Simba, Aladdin, Princess Jasmine and a host of other fictional (and not quite so fictional) characters. Tjebbe's impressive costume depicting Sponge-bob Squarpants did draw looks of bemusement from the locals. (And not just because SbSP is not, as all good cartoon boffins know, a Disney character).

(Above: the self-proclaimed serving staff (venturers) and reigning monarches Queen Andrew and Princess Jenny on Tiger Island at Alpha 3)

At Alpha 3, they've seen tigers of a different persuasion with a dress-up theme of jungle animals, which morphed into something vaguely resembling a remote Indian mardi-gras. The roof is going on the anti-poaching camp today so the gang at Tiger Island is reinforcing the elephant-proof trench (read: moat).
(Above: Elephant Frankie with leopards Hamish and Becca. We think.)

And at Alpha 4, work on the fence from the dwellers at bamboo city is continuing. There are rumours of a possible Easter jaunt up the mountain to check out some surrounding downs however with the advent of Indian school holidays, accommodation anywhere except for jungle bashas has proved a bit hard to come by.

The guys at Alpha 4 also held a tournament of strength, intellegence and endurance this week, run by the ever-charasmatic game-show host try-hards, James and Seb.

The group was split into two, team "Matt's muppets" which was captain by Matt, and team "Matt's mum's muppets" which was captained by Neil. The teams were pitted against each other in a series of trials, including carrying water whilst dizzy, a basha-building competition, and then a 'fight club' style competition using sleeping bags.

Team Matt's Mum streaked ahead in the early rounds, but failed dismally in the fight round when individual venturers (and PMS... and blog bosses) were pitted against each other in a blindfolded fight using weapons of a sleeping bag wrapped in a bin liner.

After a quiz round, a music round (lead by Seb on his guitar) and an eating competition between Matt and Neil during which Matt absolutely dominated, team Matt's Muppets came out victorious by one point.

It was a brilliant night for the residents of Bamboo City, although we hear the rather sore losers are yet to forgive the members of team Matt's Muppets.

That's the news for this Easter Friday, enjoy your hot cross buns and stay tuned for another update from a no-doubt chocolate-fuelled blogger early next week.

Oh, one more thing. Remember the new "global giving" widget we put on the blog last week? Well the good news is, you can put it on your Facebook page! As a young friend of mine would say: "How excitement!."

To put the widget on your facebook profile (as in, get a logo so people can click and then donate money to Raleigh) simply:

- Go to this page

- Scroll to the bottom of the page, and select the ‘share on facebook’. This will automatically take you to facebook if you are always logged in. If not, it will ask you to log in to your facebook account. Bingo, it gets added to your page!

- Then you can change your "what's on your mind" (I so preferred when it was just a status update) to something like "Help us build 14 homes in India this April with Global Giving." and you're done! Awesome.

While you're on Facebook... not that we at Raleigh India condone excessive procrastination or anything, you can join the official Raleigh group to stay in touch with all the goings on around the world. The group is here.

I've done a quick calculation: there are approximately 60 venturers at Raleigh India, and about 150 hits on this blog every day, sometimes up to 300 on a good blog day. Let's say 80 per cent of venturers have Facebook, and 50 per cent of blog readers have it...

Which means if every Facebook user has 100 friends (taking into account most of the venturers I know have about 300 friends...) that's a conservative estimate of 1500 people who could see the Global Giving widget and hear about the project! That's not a bad impact for a morning's work.

Happy Easter, from everyone at Raleigh India.

Thursday 9 April 2009



A tiger has just been sighted by the safari-goers from Kalaiahnahalla's Team Toilet!

This is the first tiger any venturer - or anyone at all, actually - has seen whilst on a Raleigh India expedition.

Eight members from Alpha 2 opted to join a safari during their day off today and were rewarded for the effort with a sighting of the rare big cat. They were so excited they called Fieldbase immediately to brag.

Hopefully we'll get photos for you in the next few days.

More from the Raleigh project sites later today.

Monday 6 April 2009

Dressing up, treasure hunts, and Royalty...

Hello guys. It’s Monday blog time again, and once again it is I, Admin Lucy, standing in for PRO Peta. I’m not going to call her ‘blog boss’, as she likes it too much.

We have another special treat for you today in the form of a guest blog from Tom de Wilton. Tom spent the last phase repairing elephant fences at Anaikatty, and I’d like to thank Tom for writing a few words to help us understand what it was like living in Bamboo City.

Before we get to that, however, I have a roundup of news from the other alpha groups:

In alpha 1, we hear that romance is in the air on the trek: Charlie and Esmee are sickening everyone by being all loved up. That’s even despite the lack of washing facilities. What’s more, DPM Dani, who walked the first five days of the trek, has reputedly been sharing a sleeping bag with Leanne. Dani reports that the trekkers are doing really well. They submitted South India’s second highest peak in record time on 1 April and so far have yet to experience any rain.

Alpha 2 are well on schedule with the 15 eco-sanitation units planned for this phase. They spent a pleasant day off on Saturday at the Golden Temple, and had a Disney-themed fancy dress party on Sunday evening. Rumour has it that resident Liverpudlian PM Joey went as Pinocchio and that our very own PRO was present as Simba. Hopefully we’ll have some pictures from that to share with you very soon.

You have already heard that Alpha 3 have settled fully into their camp at the new project site in Kanive Mallapanna, and that they have devised a revolutionary ‘rice bag buffet’ for lunch (in which Pete Doherty advises hungry venturers that masala rice ‘could be magic’ whilst Gandhi feels that tomato rice ‘is our destiny’). The breaking news is that alpha 3 have respectfully christened their PMs Queenie Andrew and Princess Jenny. It sounds like the atmosphere at the new alpha 3 is great, and this is reflected in the speed at which they are building their anti-poaching camp. They have already finished the foundations and the brickwork, and are fast moving onto plastering.

The team at Alpha 4 are continuing to repair their section of the elephant fence. I have every confidence that they will complete it, even if one of their PMs is a little distracted: PM Neil has reputedly been digging up the Alpha 4 tepee in search of a prize in an elaborate treasure hunt devised for him by the venturers. Hopefully he will stop before he reaches Australia...

Finally, the news from here at FB is that bravo 3 has had a pooja held in its honour to bless it after its repair work (right: driver 60/60, left, helping out the pooja). And, sadly, the little owlets have left us for good – they flew off with their mother during changeover and have not been seen again. I am considering getting some chickens to ease my owl-withdrawal symptoms (those who know me well are aware that I have a soft spot for birds, and have already commented that the blog becomes a little more bird-focussed every time I’m let loose on it.)

With no more delay, over to Tom’s blog:

The creative spontaneity of Alpha Four

Looking back, I realize that it was not just the project of repairing the elephant-proof fences that made our time in Alpha 4 (Anaikatty) so memorable, it was also the huge creative spirit that spring from such an inspiring situation. Alongside the environmental work, a big focus fell upon the challenge of turning our isolated campsite into a home for 19 days.

(PM Neil, Ed and Tom)

I believe it was a challenge we responded to with outstretched arms.

Awakening to a glorious sunrise surrounded by the sublime and ever-present Nilgiri mountain range was enough to inspire creativity in all senses of the word; both in the physical realization of artistic projects, and also the more abstract utilization of creative ideas, acting and spirit.

Our PMs were fantastic at encouraging us to develop the camp; during an afternoon chai brake it was suggested a tepee could be a valuable addition to our affectionately-named “Bamboo City”. Within an hour, the majestic structure towered above our bashas where its incense and smoke-shrouded interior became the favourite place for sheltering from downpours, evening group reviews and late night wooden-spoon carving.

The treehouse was an idea conceived on our first morning whilst digging a slops pit. Situated in the Tamanin tree overlooking the camp, watching the sunset from the bamboo platform with a cup of tea and packet of peanut crunch was idyllic.

The infamous “love swing” was the result of a productive camp duty where three members stayed behind to look after, and improve, the camp. After several flawed designs, the three-person seat was able to swing freely, and when adorned with freshly-picked flowers blossoming friendships were inevitable.

Other creations which made the camp included:

- A carved sign with “bamboo city” carefully burnt into it (see previous blog entry!)

- Two stone chairs from which to admire the surrounding scenery

- A pillow made from an old pair of boxer-shorts and cotton pods

- An 18ft flag pole with Gerald, the big purple Raleigh elephant flying at the top

- The bashas themselves, reminiscent of a fleet of sail ships with their mosquito nets flapping in the wind

A more abstract use of the word creativity was applied with delicious effect in the kitchen. Even with dwindling supplies of food, each meal continued to surpass the last. Spare time was another aspect that was creatively filled with games (especially our favourite, Werewolf), and plenty of songs.

Thousands of photographs were taken during a fancy-dress night when people were giving characters of a pair to dress as, then had the challenge of finding their pair.

During Alpha 4, I rediscovered a creative side of myself I thought I’d lost. It was a fantastic 19 days that has typified my Raleigh experience so far, as an eclectic mixing pot of cultures, people and creative spirit.

Tom de Wilton

Thursday 2 April 2009

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: First pictures from Tiger Island (Kanive Mallapanna)

NEWSFLASH: Check out our new "donate now" widget on the right-hand column. If you like our work, change the world and donate!

(Above: the new Alpha 3 site at Kanive Mallapanna)

Welcome to your first world-exclusive peek into the life at Kanive Mallapanna in the remote depths of the Indian forest!

The gang at Alpha 3 are working to build a much-needed anti-poaching camp which will help Karnataka Forest Department officials to stem theft of wood and animal products from this fragile ecological environment.

Sound important? It certainly is, but you'll be happy to know in true style our Raleigh gang have not lost their sense of fun.

The new Alpha 3 site has been dubbed "Tiger Island." The site is surrounded by a moat-like Elephant-proof trench upon which the Venturers are both living and working. The trench is impossible to leap so they do feel like they're on a tiny island in the middle of Bandipur National Park.

On the long jeep-journey to the site, the group discovered that all things certainly do come in threes: they spotted three groups of Indian elephants, and when they stopped the jeep for a closer look, quickly discovered a nearby tree was home to three snakes!

They've set up an impressive camp of bamboo in the old anti-poaching camp which has been dubbed the "servants quarters" and comes complete with a rice-bag buffet with appropriate qutoes from well-known rice-bag lunchers (well, maybe), check it out below!

The challenge to build an entire anti-poaching camp in one phase is a big ask and the team are already working very hard with a view to meeting the deadline at the end of phase in preparation for what promises to be a spectaular inauguration ceremony.

Alpha 3 was also the temporary home to a special guest from London, Raleigh's head of fundraising Teresa Fitzgerald.

Teresa joined the Raleigh India family for what we considered a far-too short length of time, and is now heading back to spread the word of India's success to everyone in the UK.

"The camp site at Alpha 3 was just amazing, the group worked like trojans to get it up and ready in the first couple of days, it was such a privilege to be able to spend time with them," she said.

(Below: Teresa pictured with Tiger Island - I mean, Alpha 3 - project manager Andrew Cox.)

Country Programme Manager Mark Ashby also joined the Alpha 3 team for a morning, and checked out the amount of wild lantana growing around the camp.

Lantana is a noxious weed in much of the Australian and Asian regions and Raleigh is investigating potential future projects to help eradicate the dense, prickly and poisonous bush from parts of remote India.

(Mark Ashby checking out the prolific spread of lantana around the Tiger Island campsite)

The loop vehicle will be heading back out to Alpha 3 this phase so there will be more stories from the Tiger Island troops before the end.

In the meantime, here's two cool things:

The first is a picture of our five new explorers! I forgot to post it the other day, so here is Alex, Em, Anuta, Zhara and Gavin at Fieldbase shortly before deployment:

And secondly, I promised a special guest blogger and as a "Grand Blog Master" (thanks to the de Wilton olds for that nickname) I do try to deliver!

Holly Gottlieb was on the trekking phase for phase 2. She has since returned and joined "Team Toilet" at Kalainhnahalla but took time out during changeover to write up her experience on the 200km hike in Kerala.

(Above: Holly and the trekking group during Phase 2)

Read on!

Not-so-glorious mud: A tale from Kerala

For most of us the highlight of the trek was without doubt the summit day where we climbed the Missapuli Mala peak which the trek is named after. We climbed for hours and hours only to find clouds swarming around us when we reached the top. Nevertheless, ecstatic doesn’t really equate to how we felt when we got there. Coming down the mountain we adopted an alternative way of moving by sliding down the rocks and grass on our arses, it was a much more effective way of coming down!

Needless to say that
there was quite a lot of sewing to do that evening, particularly in Rosanna’s case where she had to resort to gaffer tape in an attempt to patch up the almighty tear in the crotch of her shorts. We then visited the world’s highest tea factory where we across a guy who coincidentally lived on the same street as Angel, all the way back in barking. It was only on the jeep ride down from the tea factory that the sun eventually came out and we were able to appreciate the incredible news.

Being Zoe’s birthday, we celebrated that evening with plum cake and braced ourselves for the approaching storm.

Later on that evening, Jo and I woke up to find an inch of water INSIDE our tent and a waterfall had started on Zoe’s head. This failed to wake her up and it was only our cries of desperation which eventually woke her. After assessing the predicament, Zoe said, and I quote: “We are leaving. EVACUATE!”

Semi-dressed and clutching our sleeping bags and mats for dear life, we ran to seek shelter in a workman’s slop, where we had left our rucksacks only to find them floating in a foot of water. We managed to find a square metre still semi-dry and the three of us spent the night huddled together bracing against the hurricane-force winds and rain, praying the water didn’t creep any closer. It has certainly been my
most memorable evening of expedition!
After the particularly tough day, our first rest day was spend lounging about a lake with geese, some of the group went and bought chickens from the local town and the massacre that followed was enough to scar even nature-boy Tom M, for life.

Another very memorable occasion occurred when we were trying to cross a dried up lake. Had the first group been right in their prediction that we would not see s drop of rain, this would have been a very easy task. However considering that we saw torrential rain every night, an easy task it was not.

We spent a good couple of hours trying to negotiate a way across and our decision to just “go for it” seriously backfired when some of us – me included – fell in, up to our waists, in pure sludgy mud.

A whole pile-up started when Rosanna got stuck and our guide Arun jumped in to save the damsel in distress. In classic comedy mode, Angel then launched herself in to save Arun,. Meanwhile the rest of us – not wanting to miss the opportunity – just stood by and took photographs.

For me, the most challenging part of the trek was the last few days which were particularly tough on the feet but I am so grateful to the rest of the group who pulled together and got me through it. Our last trekking day was pretty spectacular when the heavens opened minutes after we reached our campsite. The trek is designed to be tough and it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park but the sense of achievement and satisfaction I felt on completion made all the difficult times completely worthwhile.

(Below: Hobby, Sumith, Seb, Felicity and Angel at Vagamon campsite)