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

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

Saturday 29 January 2011

Wanna be starting something...

They’re here!

The alarm went off at three o’clock this morning which could only have meant one thing, either I’ve forgotten again how to use this new watch or it’s time to go get the venturers! Luckily it was the latter of these options and it was great to finally meet all the people from all over the world that are going to make this expedition flippin' brilliant.

After some long flights and a five hour journey back from the airport, everyone is now here, safe and well and being fattened up on some lovely Iocal food. After a quick tour of field base, it was time for Mark to welcome the venturers from all over the globe and then for Julia to introduce them to the staff team. The full expedition team is now complete hurray!

As the temperature rose into the thirties this afternoon, the venturers got a chance to change into shorts and flip flops, meet their new home for the next 96 days, as well as lots and lots of new friends.

Their beds are almost set up, the sun has set and there are just a few more things to work through tonight before they pack their bags again and head out at first light tomorrow morning for three days training starting with a 25km trek to the camp site. It’s going to be a full on few days for them and we’ll be updating you on all their adventures along the way.

But for now, it’s time to get packing for us all and then a few hours sleep. Nighty night.

Friday 28 January 2011

The final countdown...

Hello all, hope you’re well wherever you are reading this. Life here on expedition in India is about to ramp up another notch (are there any left?!) as the venturers from India arrive with us today and then all the others arrive first thing tomorrow morning.

We’ve been busy finishing off all the training so our heads are jam-packed with all sorts of useful information that we’ll need during the next three months. The ill-fitting marigolds have also been back out again and field base is sparkling and ready to be packed to the rafters with people.

Mona and Kate

Dan trying out his lippy skills, turns out they're pretty good! This is all part of soft skills training, honest...

Dave all geared up for manicure

Ros and Susan sporting cracking hats and ties.

Testing how much we trust each other.

Sukanya from next door pops in for a go on Kathryn's camera.
Sukanya then tries out the aviators. Good look.
A new basha city has been constructed opposite the venturer dorm so we can house everyone, and we've been going through the very exhausting process of testing them all out, they’re amazingly comfortable!

Manju testing out the basha he built.

Stuart and Eeva.

Becca and Jen
This was also the setting for our staff photograph taken yesterday morning where Kathryn had the hard task of making us all look lovely pretty early in the morning...

After the photo shoot yesterday we then walked over to the local school in the nearest village of Jayapura to meet the teachers, children and to give to them the notebooks, pens and flip flops that we’d brought with us from the UK.

Celine handing over the flip flips to Jayapura school.

Kate brought half a stationery shop with her.

It was an amazing experience for all with Dave, and the Stuarts trying to play cricket with about 50 of the school kids which then just turned into a game of ‘lob it and run’.

We were then lucky enough to watch on during their prayers session accompanied by the school band which was a great thing to watch.

After all the excitement of the morning there was even more to come as we headed into Mysore for the afternoon so the project managers could complete their swim test which was a welcome break from the heat of the sunshine. Due to local celebrations we couldn’t head back down to the river that the field base staff were lucky enough to swim in, so it was a dip in the local pool instead with a much smaller crowd and no fish treading water alongside them.

Photo girl Kathryn after the swim test.

To finish off the very busy two weeks of training, cleaning and preparation, we got all glammed up and each put on our one good outfit and headed for some dinner back in Mysore.

Eleri, Becca and Polly at dinner.

Julia, Jen, Dan and Mona.

So today, everyone’s getting a bit giddy as a few venturers have now arrived from India and some of us are heading off to Bangalore shortly to collect all the other venturers  that arrive at the airport very early tomorrow morning. We’ll be back tomorrow with an update when they’re all back here safe and sound at field base, so until then...

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Who saw the most nellys

After a few quiet days at field base, the project managers are now back from their project site visits and full of stories and excitement about the people and places they’ve seen. So while they crack on with the paper work (of which there’s a lot) I’ll update you on how they got on in what will be home to them and the venturers in Phase one which starts on the 3rd of February, not long now!

During the updates from the teams, I noticed a bit of competition kicking in about who had and hadn’t seen elephants  so in order to win, the field base team managed to trump them all by saying that a whole herd had popped round for chai one afternoon while they were away so we won hands down. This may or may not have been true...

Charlie 1 – installing biogas systems in Vellary
Stu and Eeva, accompanied by Polly and Theja, headed out to their village in the Nilgiri hills which is a really beautiful area and saw elephants on the way there! There was some disagreement as to whether they saw two or three elephants so we managed just to settle on the fact that they saw elephants, plural, and left it at that.

Theja and Eeva

Polly and Stuart

They met a few familiar faces along the way like Vijay who used to be the host country venture co-ordinator here at the office and also Qathab who was a venturer with us. 

An existing biogas unit.

Theja, Eeva and Polly with Qathab and Shreeja from our project partner CTRD. 

At the end of a long day our project managers sat down to dinner with one of the families who kindly took them in which was an amazing experience and another chance to master the art of eating with one hand.  

Elephants spotted – 2 or 3, it’s still in dispute. Time for a thumb war me thinks...

Charlie 2 – building Eco-sanitation units in BD Munti
Kate and Mona came back totally amazed at how beautiful the village of BD Munti is and can’t wait to get back. The village is peninsula at the top of a hill, so it’s surrounded by a reservoir on three sides which will provide a great location for the odd dip during the project.

They met and were offered food by over a hundred of the local families, were followed round by about fifty kids at all times and were lucky enough to join them in a game of volleyball in which they only sustained a few minor injuries. 

Kate and Mona slept in the school house at the top of the hill where they’ll be staying with the venturers when out on project. They also managed to visit one of sanitation units that was built by a previous expedition in 2009.

Elephants spotted  - 0. Must try harder next time.

Echo 3 – building elephant trenches and solar fences in Huskaradi
Dave and Cat, along with Una from field base, went with some of the other teams to the office of our project partner MYKAPS to speak to them about all the projects they run in the area. 

Dave at MYKAPS

Cat with some of the local school children

They then went out to the project site and saw some of the trenches dug by the 2010 expeditions, and were surprised at how huge they actually were. We’re all a bit nervous about Cat falling in and never getting out!  

Dave in the trench
So many people getting on the bus.

They also enjoyed a dip in the nearby reservoir which is beautiful setting right next to where the project camp will be based.

Elephants spotted  - 0. Also must try harder.

Echo 4 – building elephant trenches and solar fences in Basava Pura
Celine and Dan headed out to Basava Pura also via the MYKAPS office. They got a chance to visit the local school and meet the local children who then distracted them from cracking on with their lengthy risk assessments.  

Dan all happy before he lost his sock.

They then enjoyed some chai in the village square with the local elders which was all going great until a dog ran off with one of Dan’s socks that he’d had to leave outside the shop with his shoes. The sock has not been seen since. That evening one of the families very kindly took them in and invited them to stay for dinner which was really lovely and gave them a chance to use the Kannada words they’ve been learning.

Elephant trenches and solar fences built by previous Raleigh groups.

Celine with the local cricket team, or guitarists, I'm not quite sure...

Elephants spotted - 0 but did see elephant tracks so we’ll give them ½ a point.

Tango 5 – trekking across Kerala
After a long twelve hour drive to the first camp site, Naomi and Ros were up bright and early the next day to meet their adventure project partner, Kalypso. They then headed out on the trek route and visited a number of the campsites that we’ll be using along the way which were all much better than expected and had incredible views. 

One of the the lovely campsites

Amazing views of Kerala's countryside

Due to the altitude it was also much colder than we’re used to here at field base so they’ll be making sure they take lots of hats and jumpers to wear at night.

Naomi and Ros enjoying lunch

Elephants spotted – 0 but did see some very large elephant droppings, a monkey and a 6ft long cobra skin.

Cheeky monkey

Cobra skin.

Tango 6 – trekking a different route across Kerala

Stuart and Susan were joined by Eleri, one of the medics and they headed over to Kerala to recce some of the trek routes for a few days. They started by visiting a watchtower high up in the mountains which looked out over the highest tea plantation in the world.

Susan and Stuart recce the trek trail

Eleri takes a break in a sweet shop
Looking out towards the watchtower across the tea plantation.

Ain't no mountain high enough...

They visited some of the campsites that we’ll be using, swung by the biggest natural reservoir in India and walked through some beautiful unspoilt landscape. They also tried out the hardest part of the trek and it turns out it’s really flippin hard! But the guides from our project partner, Muddy boots, were just incredible and helped them through every step of the way. The guides also checked ahead for signs of elephants or other wildlife and their knowledge of the areas that we’ll be walking through was fantastic.

Their guide from Mussy Boots

With a very dangerous baby goat.

Stuart getting ready to radio back to field base with an update on the day.

Elephants spotted – 6! They saw a herd at the side of the road from the bus just after they crossed the border into Kerala. Plus they also saw a giant Indian squirrel and a black cobra so I think that might even beat field base’s fabricated elephant chai party. Drat.


And this is what a giant Indian squirrel looks like. Pretty scary.

They all had an incredible time and are now continuing with the planning and further training before heading back out there once the venturers arrive.

There was some other sad news from the planning visits which has meant that we’re currently in a state of mourning. It would seem that Kate and Wills had taken one of their many pit stops in Eleri’s boots which she took on the trip hung on the back of her bag. However they were only spotted when they all arrived in Kerala, so Kate and Wills have been abandoned almost two hours away from here. We’re hoping they manage to hop back by the end of expedition. In the mean time though one of Sid the cobra’s kids seems to be loitering around the office as there have been sightings of a baby cobra who we’re going to call Colin.

It's been your messages from home that have been getting us through this hard time so we all wanted to say thanks to all of you that have sent kind words in to us, they're so appreciated here and really do make people smile. Being able to walk up to someone and sing 'You've got blog mail' is one of my favourite parts of the day. So thanks again and keep them coming...

Also a quick note to venturer Katy Stocker - thanks so much for your message, we can't wait to see you here in India, especially with your newly shaved head!