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

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

Thursday 25 February 2010

Into the wilderness

We have been busy doing our pre project visits and assessing the sites for the venturer’s arrival. It is time to let you know a little bit about the projects that will be taking place on this expedition. Excited? You should be as they are absolutely awesome! There are seven in total. Today I am going to tell you about the two environmental projects.

Welcome to Echo 5

Project : Saveera Matti Anti poaching camp construction and elephant proof trench

This is an Environmental Project and it is a project working in partnership with Karnataka Forest Department to construct an anti poaching camp on the Cauvery River for rangers to use as a patrol base. Combating elephant and tiger poaching as well as the prevention of forest fires is a huge task for the forestry department.

The project managers that are running the show will be Dave, Julia and Lucy. You have heard about Dave already so that leaves me only to introduce the Echo 5 ladies.

(LtoR The Echo 5 recee team Lucy, Julia, Sixty, Dave and Claire)

Julia is originally from New Zealand. She has travelled a lot but is brand new to India and Raleigh.

1.She has brought waterproof mascara with her as her luxury item.

2. She would most like to trek with David Attenborough as she has met him and simply loves him!

3. Her preference would be for leeches as opposed to mosquitoes or delhi belly as she has had leeches before and doesn’t think that they are that bad.

Lucy went to Ghana with Raleigh as a venturer back in 2002 and is now returning to experience Raleigh life as a Project Manager. Lucy has travelled to over 40 countries around the world but her favourite places are Ghana and New Zealand. Julia considers that this is a good choice and their friendship is cemented from this point on!


1. Lucy has brought hair straighteners with her as a luxury item and she has also bought with her a DKNY swimsuit.

2.She would trek with Richard Branson as he is an adventurous man and would have a lot to share with her. She also went to school with his nephew.

3. She too goes for the leeches. Brave and glamorous!

I join Echo 5 for their pre project visit and a drive that should take around three hours actually takes six as villagers are demonstrating that they have no water.
Finally we reach the edge of the forest. We all agree that it is far sparser than we thought it would be but the paths are the same familiar red dust that carpets the whole of southern India. There are no leaves on the trees and the forest is made up of lots of spikey brambles rather than the lush green vegetation that we all had imagined. Our heads knock against the side of the 4 x 4 as we judder forwards and backwards over the rugged terrain.

We stop after an hour and then over the edge of the forest we have our first glimpse of the deep blue river edged by rocks and sandy beach. Everyone is completely blown away by the remoteness and the beauty of this place. It is one of those moments where you stop, breathe in deeply as you look around and you feel totally, completely and utterly satisfied.

After a brief period of soaking it all up some serious business takes place such as taking risk assessments, locating a satellite signal for communications, setting up camp and other necessaries. The anti poaching camp is to be built at the top of the cliff edge and again serious discussions take place about how water will be sourced to the building site from the river. It is going to be a hard job especially in the blistering heat.

(LtoR Jo, Julia, Lucy, Kripa, Sam and Dave)

The rangers point out some elephant poo and a fresh wave of excitement ripples around the group. The first monkey is spotted and there is yet more excitement although later we realise that there are actually hundreds of monkeys swinging naughtily from the trees and instead of being our friends they are little thieves so we need to hide our spoils from them. Spirits are high, the job is in hand and there is time for a swim in the river.
Happy happy days!

The guard points out far out in the distance along the river bed and makes the universal sign of a crocodile. With his arms stretched out in front of him he claps his hands together to imitate the jaws of a croc. A few gasps are answered by reassurance that it is safe to swim and we take complete comfort in the two guards who will be accompanying us at all times.

Over night we are visited by a cheetah coming to take in some water from the river. The guard is alert, Dave is convinced he felt something brush past the tent and Julia heard the breaking of twigs. I unfortunately was out for the count but I am still thrilled by the idea of a big cat roaming through our camp.

Echo 4

Project: Parasalnattam Elephant Proof Fencing

Living in the forest most likely in bashas the project group will help protect the 35 families in the village of Parasalnattam from elephant attack and crop raiding by constructing solar powered electric fencing around the small community. This is the first stage of the initiative to conserve the habitat of the national parks and surrounding villages.

This project is led by Kripa and Sam and what a team they make.

                                                       (LtoR Jo, Sam and Kripa)

This is their first time on Raleigh but together they have been cooking up some awe-inspiring activities for the venturers to do. I won’t spoil their surprises but I will share them with you as they happen and I can promise that anyone in their group is going to have a lot of fun.

Sam has spent the last five months in Beijing where he has been studying Mandarin.

1. Sam’s luxury item is his laptop.

2. He would most like to trek with a combination of Clive and Benn as he thinks that by combining them both you would make the ultimate trekking machine.

3. He would go for the leeches

Kripa likes to think that she speaks fluent Hindi but she does speak fluent Gujarati. She also impressively used to work for Jaguar as a calibration engineer but she is now going to train to be a maths teacher after she finishes imparting her wisdom on the expedition.

1. Her luxury items are her exfoliating gloves and her electric toothbrush.

2. She would most like to trek with Russell Howard as he would keep her entertained and her little sister.

3. Kripa would probably go for the leeches although she didn’t sound too convincing.

I join Echo 4 for their pre project visit and we venture into the forest in the 4x4 for about an hour before the track becomes too steep and rocky to take a vehicle. We then climb upwards in the sweltering, red-hot sun. It is a hard trek even without rucksacks and our water bottles are so hot now that even the water breaks are not refreshing or pleasurable. Our surroundings are sparse and fairly uninspiring and my enthusiasm wanes slightly as my feet get hotter and my face gets redder. Suddenly we reach the top and we see the beautiful green lush crops of the village of Parasalnattam as it sits prettily in the valley. The greenness and colourfulness of the fields is in complete contrast with the surroundings which elevates the villages beauty and explains the feeling of euphoria at our discovery which can only be likened to finding an oasis in the desert.

The beautiful green crops that you can see above are the product of the hard work of the villagers but could be wiped out in an instant by roaming elephants leaving the villagers currently completely exposed.

The project is going to be tough. It is potentially one of the toughest. Its location is so remote it can only be reached on foot and the venturers are going to need to trek 9 km to get to it. Also the project managers have to consider how materials are going to be taken up the hillside, and are arranging for an ox and cart to bring the heaviest tools up the steep forest track. The plan is also to hopefully use as much locally grown food as possible to feed the group over the coming weeks. I already cannot wait to visit them and keep you updated on their progress.

Sunday 21 February 2010

"Man Up"


H ello

E cho

L ima

L ima

O scar              

Any keen readers will have noticed an unusual quietness on the blog front from field base. Our absence is explained by trek training and we all return smarter, stronger and far too familiar with the phrase “man up”!

Let me introduce the trekking team.

This is Benn

Benn has achieved everything you can achieve on the Duke of Edinburgh and completed his gold award in the Alps. He was president of the university mountaineering club and led the group to an impressive climb in Andorra. He is now a mountain leader and spends his spare time returning to help train the students at the university. For all his experience I still managed to track him down and make him answer the three questions :-

1. He considers his luxury item to be 5 pairs of boxers when he thinks he only needed 2. That obviously is a debatable point but one I will not continue with! If he had more room he would have bought an Ipod and some earl gray tea. How very civilized!

2. He would most like to trek with Nelson or Churchill as he is interested in leadership styles.

3. He wants 5 mozzie bites to the face which no doubt will be delivered at some point as he is likely to trek for three consecutive phases – although this is Raleigh so expect the unexpected.

This is Clive

Like Benn, Clive also got into trekking at university and he has since inspiringly climbed to Everest base camp, trekked in New Zealand and made light work of the Inca Trail. He continues to trek in the UK and has completed the coast to coast challenge.

1. Again like most of the men here his luxury item is an MP3 player but his favourite track motivationally is the “I can walk five hundred miles” song. Annoyingly that little gem will be going round and round in my head now for the forseeable future. Bahhhhh da da da! Bahhhhh da da da! Grrr.

2. He would like to trek with Sir Edmond Hilary

3. He chose leeches as he has had experience of them before and he says "they are like little friends that attach themselves to you." The way Clive describes them almost makes me think I might want one.

And Sammy..........

Sammy  has been a GP for 5 years and is a medic on this expedition. She has been part of the Territorial Army for 11 years and has spent part of last year working in a field hospital in Afghanistan in Helmand’s Province.

1.Her luxury item is her laptop because she writes a blog and is a self confessed internet addict. It is going to be cold turkey for Sammie during the 19 day trek.

2. She would most like to trek with Bruce Parry

3. Sammie chooses the mosquito bites as they are a known entity to her and she hasn’t had leeches on her before. Plenty of time Sammie plenty of time!

Helen I have introduced to you before but I didn't tell you she is medic and has also trekked in Namibia and has notching up a successful 19 day trek before. She has the t-shirt and she is after another!

And finally on this phase for the trekking team we have Rosie

Rosie loves to trek and she informs me that there are 283 munro's in Scotland (put crudely, peaks over 3000 foot). She has climbed 200 and it is her ambition to get to the top of the lot!

1. Her luxury item is her nail polish or the books that she has bought with her.

2. She would most like to trek with David Tennant better known as Dr Who because she likes him.

3. She chooses leeches as she has had the other two before. Better the unknown? We will see.
So back to the trek training………..

It's black and dark, the stars are still out but there is urgency and purpose amongst the bodies milling around field base. Headtorches flash around the many tents to reveal people busy gathering kit, cooking porridge and pulling various cords to adjust their full heavy and cumbersome ruck sacks to ensure they rest comfortably on their owners in preparation for the 14k trek in the blistering heat to near Daddaahalli.

The first group sets off shortly after the light arrives at 7 and is followed shortly by the second group at a quick eager pace to embark on our first adventure as a team.

We reach the top of the driveway a mere 100 metres from field base and our newly appointed day leader Dave (the idea of the day leader is that we all take turns to navigate with the aid of the map and under the watchful eye of our trek leaders) appears confused and studies the map with a look of intense concentration before decisively commanding the group to turn left towards Jaypura. Anxious glances are exchanged by the rest of the group who having been to Jaypura only yesterday are all certain that it is actually right at the top of the road. An unconvincing start is ignored as we all proceed happily to our destination as the usual chatter that accompanies such a long walk begins and the sun makes itself known to us without making us uncomfortable.

After some time we reach the village of Sindhuhalli and take the opportunity to fill our water bottles from the local pump. We also manage to persuade some local villagers to wash some of our kit along the way.

We pass field after field, as the sun burns down on us, t-shirts are no longer moist but drenched in sweat, water bottles are drained as boots rhythmically pound the dusty paths and the only breeze is the sudden but welcome gust as vehicles hurry past. Kevin and James notice the blast of air that is created by the vehicles and try to emulate a vehicle by running past each other, although they don’t manage to achieve cool air they do achieve hysterical laughter from the rest of the group as they mess about reminding us of dogs chasing their tails. The mood is light despite what is starting to be unbearable heat under the weight of the rucksacks.

Out come the maps again. Dave our learned leader who has been lagging behind a bit comes up with the unique idea of taking a longer and more scenic route. This idea is met with complete derision by the rest of the group. It is hot. It is really hot. It is not the time for sightseeing and we put the idea to a public vote. He is outnumbered by everyone and we plough on.

We reach the next village and we generate the same curiosity and interest that we are now becoming accustomed to. Kripa one of our group is fluent in Hindi which although isn’t the local language is understood in part. As she explains our presence we are offered kindness which is also accompanied by chai and laughter.

There is talk of going to the well to fill bottles and two of the men set off for their task. After a ten minute period Dave has gone missing. At first we are anxious and then as we see him saunter back to the group and our emotions are replaced by anger. Valuable time has been lost by looking for Dave and we are irritable. Finally though we reach our destination and much needed shade is taken before we set up camp for the night.

For some of us a whole new vocabulary is learnt, long drops, slosh pits are all dug and tents are erected.

Home for the night at least has been made and we watch the amazing sunset and chill.

A fire is lit and we talk about what we have learnt from the trek and Dave’s uncharacteristic and erratic behavior is discussed. It turns out that Dave has in fact been planted as a mole in the group. Horror, recognition, understanding and smiles pass across the groups faces, someone shouts "I knew there was something up with you today."  His mission was to get things wrong and isolate himself. Suddenly we analyse our behaviour and no one is that proud of the way we treated Dave. Lessons are learnt about how we can accommodate someone who is perhaps struggling and we all reflect on the way we operate as a group before we laugh heartily at Dave’s amateur dramatics and how convincing he was!

Day 2
We are adament that we are going to be a sleeker operation and there will be no loo breaks every 5 minutes and we will continue at pace to early to avoid the heat. Five minutes out of our camp base Helen annoyingly announces she needs to go. The group wait loitering at a respectful distance and then panic Helen shouts she has been bitten by a snake. Right emergency. The training spins in our head, casevac, panic, no don't panic; what do we need; communicate to field base, stretcher, runner, delogate, control, someone needs to make tea, make the rest of the group safe, bandage her leg. In less than a minute we are organised, we have a plan and communications are made with field base. It transpires that we have to carry Helen by stretcher. Four of us take turns to carry her and her back pack to the nearest village where help and field base will meet us. After two minutes we switch, she is heavy and we are sweating, the bamboo is slipping in our hands, we swap with each other to lighten the load, we carry on for thirty minutes. It is so hard but time is short so we continue sweating working as a team to save our team member. She is heavy.
We get to the village and find that Helen is also a mole and she is fine. Cynically we should have guessed looking at her smiling face in the picture above!

Tuesday 16 February 2010


We say Namaskarra to our Project Managers today and the buzz at field base gets even louder.

Welcome banners are up, garlands are draped round our necks and we greet the Project Managers with a hindu ritual called Aarthi. An aarthi plate is circulated (this is a metal bowl containing a flame, flowers and incense) a kumkum is then placed on our foreheads. You maybe more familiar with the term bindi and a kumkum  is a similar mark. It is made from saffron and is used as a sign of respect at a puja (a ceremony of gratitude or religious ritual).

Aarthi Plate

Garland Flowers

                               Vijay welcoming Kevin with a garland

Vijay and Clive




(LtoR Helen James and Sophie)

Helen greeting Julia

James and Sophie



Jo greeting Sam

People glad to be reunited from the development weekend

( LtoR James Ben Dave Tom and Priya)

Rosie and Lucy

Sophie Julia Joanna  Kripa

                        (L to R Amanda Ben Anna Dave Vijay Tom Rita)

As well as learning a lot of new names today we also discuss Indian culture.

Eating in India - The Rules!
Etiquette for dining in India basically contradicts every rule that I was taught as a child growing up in the UK.

1. You get to eat with your hands (but only your right one)

2. You can sit on the floor

3. You don’t talk – Vijay tells us about his childhood and said that if he tried to ask questions whilst he was eating he was told to “concentrate on the food”. Sounds awesome to me!

Today’s Project Manager Interview is with Dave from Harrogate who is a virgin to Raleigh

1. Dave’s luxury item he brought with him is his MP3 player and his favourite album is by the Prodigy. He refused to sing to me as well.

2. He would trek with Ian McKellen as he considers that he is a fountain of knowledge or Billy Connolly

3. He would rather be bitten by the mosquitoes biting him on the face rather than have to deal with leeches or delhi belly whilst trekking.