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

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

Sunday 26 February 2012

Join the SitRep

Keeping up with our venturers and Project Managers is not always easy, with us being here at Fieldbase and them being “out there”. However, we are trying our best to stay in touch via:
  • The Loop is THE official tour of the Raleigh project sites. The logs team and some of the Field Base team drive the Bravos (cars) on a loop round to each of the accessible project sites (during this expedition it’s Charlie 1, Charlie 2, and Echo 4) once per phase. They deliver kit, supplies, site visitors, YOUR messages from the blog, and of course the all-important post! 
  • Ad-hoc visits are made whenever special assistance is required. Picking up site visitors (like the Photographer) or delivering urgent vaccines are some of the examples. 
  • SitReps or Situation Reports are special messages sent from the project sites back to Fieldbase every evening. It follows a certain format and includes all sort of handy information like where they are, what they have been up to, what they need (which is mainly football and rugby results), and what they’re planning to do next. The short version of a SitRep is a Comms Check and is conducted every morning.
I will be on the loop this week to get some insider information from Charlie 1, Charlie 2, and Echo 4 and to hand out your messages. To keep you entertained in the meantime, I deciphered the many different handwritings in our SitRep-book to give you a short overview of what our Alpha-groups have been up to in their first project week.
  • Charlie 1: Our friends in Gandenahalli laid foundations and completed the walls of four different project sites. They also attended the Maha Shivratri celebrations in the local village on 20 February. Charlie one even rose to local newspaper fame by having an article about them published in Vijaya Karnataka.

Yellow box: “Raleigh India provides opportunities for volunteers interested in learning our culture and tradition. This group of young people from Raleigh India helps our communities to build Eco-Sanitation facilities, which helps fertilise crops by utilising human wastage. These volunteers do not come to India solely for travel and entertainment; their work is very much appreciated.” (Translation by Theja)
  • Charlie 2: The other Charlies have already finished digging two toilet cesspits. They used their spare time to dress up the dining and meeting area, apparently with a very cushty result.
  • Echo 3: Communication with this group is not always easy, as network reception in their area is rather tricky. However, I think they just don’t want to leave their on-beach sunrise/sunset lounge (built on day one, they know how to prioritise!) or move away from watching adorable baby turtles hatch every night.
  • Echo 4: Completed two cowshed foundations and 1 and1/2 biogas holes. After drinking fresh cow milk and one or two venturers falling into cow dung, they consider themselves experts in the cattle-m├ętier.
  • Tango 5: After walking through vast tea plantations and Cardamom fields, they surely deserved their day off. But no rest day for the wicked: Tango 5 decided to switch to another gear and went rafting instead. That’s the spirit!
  • Tango 6: As you may have already read in venturer Katherine’s guest blog, the group climbed an “incredibly high mountain”, walked through a cloud, completed their survival day with honours, went rafting and received a surprise visit by Sam, Reggie, and Big Manju.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Sometimes it takes 6 to tango

Our ad-hoc visitors team Sam, Reggie, and Big Manju have not only brought back Photographer Bob from the wild of Southern India, but also a little jewel in the form of a guest blog from venturer Katherine Arnot, photos, and the venturers’ (and PMs') messages to friends and family. Enjoy the read! 

Guestblogger Katherine Arnot
Only a couple of days into our Tango 6 trek, and it already feels as if we have been moving for weeks. We started in high spirits with a perilous three-day coach trip, involving worrying narrow hairpin bends and several near head-on collisions, but finally strapped on our heavy backpacks full of food and medical kits to begin our adventure with Brijesh and Manoj, our guides.
Our journey in the Western Ghats so far has been short but very full-on. Tackling the second highest mountain in Southern India on our second day proved to be a challenge for all of us. We were walking up what seemed to be vertical hills. However, the sense of euphoria on approaching the top as we marched up through the clouds banished any memory of struggle from our minds. We were on top of the world and suddenly the tiredness which had been holding us back lifted and the last few steps to the top became effortless. We continued with an equally steep descent through the vast and beautiful tea plantations. The day was nicely finished off with a bumpy jeep ride accompanied by Indian techno music.

An easy start...

... getting steeper...

...on top of the world!

Campsite with a view
The experience was followed by a “Survival Day” on which – through great effort – we managed to build a sleeping shelter out of bamboo and coconut leaves and to kill and prepare a chicken in the heat of the day. 
High class eco-dormitory for 11 persons
On day 5 we finally went rafting, an experience everyone had been looking forward to. After a short trek we had to work out how to build a raft out of bamboo, string and rubber rings. Having set up two rafts, which seemed sturdy enough, we set off for our 4km journey; our biggest challenge and accomplishment so far. We had no idea how difficult it would be until we found ourselves paddling with all our strength, only to realise we hadn’t moved a single inch for ten minutes. Thank you very much headwind! However, in the Raleigh spirit - instead of giving up and declaring ourselves too tired to carry on - we powered through and with motivation, determination, and a lot of groaning we succeeded in reaching the end. We celebrated with a lovely evening around the campfire, all exhausted but ready for more trekking tomorrow. So far, this experience has been something which none of us had imagined and we can’t wait what the next two weeks have in store.

And now... Messages written at an altitude of 2640 m / 8661 feet (I really liked the handwriting and I was afraid to get the Dutch part wrong. I also like MS Paint and putting hearts on selected scribbly bits.) :
From Amanda ( This is for you Manda: :oP )

From Beatrice

From Katherine

From Nicole

From Sophia

From Ursula

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Meanwhile at Fieldbase…

If we can’t go to the “real India”, we let India come to us. For fort-holding reasons, Fieldbase staff does not have the privilege to live in rural Indian communities and wander around tea plantations every day. Hosting the 2012 Host Country Venturer Reunion was therefore a welcome diversion from our bubble. Each project of every Raleigh expedition is joined by Host Country Venturers (HCVs), offering brilliant insights into Indian culture and acting as friends, guides, teachers, translators, and negotiators.
Twenty of those former HCVs set up camp in our dormitories in the evening of Friday, 17 January, to spend two days of discussions, presentations, and games with each other. HCV co-ordinator Theja and country director Mark led through the programme. The sessions focused on ideas for improving the HCV recruitment process and fostering the activity of the three state representatives groups (in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu), for example through networking over social projects and events. And it was of course an opportunity to share stories about their very own expedition, the friends they made, the skills they acquired, and the challenges they met.

The HCVs
Hennaing up the Fieldbase staff. Thanks so much!
Reggie's wildest dreams coming true.
However, for reasons a German can’t even begin to understand, the highlight seemed to be a three hour HCV/Fieldbase-bonding-session over a game the Commonwealth of Nations inhabitants call “Cricket”. Having had no preparation whatsoever, I was standing on the pitch, trying to figure out the rules and THE POINT of the game. Everyone else seemed to know the rules (and the point), but still kept standing around. And waiting. In the end one team won (apparently I was in it).
A REAL game.
Feeling slightly unsatisfied? Did you expect – or rather hoped for – class A sports reporting? You were right in doing so! As I would never let you down, dear reader, I handed over the task of fulfilling your every reading need to the extremely talented, yet shy and hence anonymous, Fieldbase sports department. Here you go:
As the morning sun began to rise over the Jayapura oval, the opening pair of the Sachin Scorchers strolled to the crease. Local spectators gathered and were not disappointed as the run rate charged forward at a blistering pace. Two overs down, the Scorchers had hit an impressive 36 and the winning feeling had begun to take hold.
Feeling the momentum turning away, the Ravi Rhinos started to find their rhythm and their bowlers began firing down unplayable deliveries with their fielders backing them up with some heroic catches in the deep. Four wickets down, and following a rather controversial decision by Umpire Jones, a well earned tea break of tepid water and freshly cooked spongecake was called. The teams then resumed their positions and in the increasingly arid conditions the innings came to a close with the Scorchers scoring a respectable 91 on a wicket that was fast becoming a bowler’s dream.
The Rhinos then took to the crease and - although hoping to find some early boundaries - had not expected the skilled bowling of medium paced Small Manju who expertly utilised the unique rock formations to produce some unpredictable turns. Following the fall of the openers, however, the middle order soon took control and holes in the previously waterproof defence of the Scorchers were soon being found. 

Small Manju and Pavan getting their game on.
As 13 overs were up, the tantalising conclusion of this multicultural exhibition of sporting excellence was soon upon us. The Rhinos needing only 12 more runs with 2 wickets in hand and a pitch that contained India’s second highest peak. In the end the Rhinos prevailed with a masterclass of cut shots and slogs and we all descended back to Fieldbase, waiting for the inevitable calls from Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower.

Looks like a winning team. Except it isn't.
That's a winning team.
I still have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

Saturday 18 February 2012

This is Delta listening out.

The time has come! On 16 February our venturers and PMs boarded the buses that would take them to their new home… at least for the next three weeks that is! Leading up to this they had to go through the nerve-wracking procedure of allocation (there is a thin line between goodbye-Delta-group-pains and hello-Charlie/Echo/Tango-group-pleasures) and the sheer horror of packing not only your own belongings, but also camping stoves, hygiene goodies, and one week’s worth of food. To top it all off, attention for presentations on Monitoring & Evaluation and Communications was required. In the face of all this stress, we pulled out all the stops to keep them entertained: Music, glitter, boys in tight shirts, even our trump: dancing small Manju. But enough introductions, you want to know who goes where, right!? Well, I’ve prepared a couple of things for you:
  • First, more information about the respective projects can be found in this blog post.
  • Second, my long struggle with the often incompatible combination of northings, eastings, and Google Maps has not been in vain. Check out the map below to find out who is where, doing what, and with whom. The map will have its very own permanent spot on the right hand side column of the blog (in red colour).

  • Third, it’s picture time again! And as you will see, I DID learn all the names. The venturers have been reallocated to Charlie (community projects), Echo (environment projects), and Tango (trek) groups. If you would like to pass on a message, please forget about Delta, indicate name of venturer and the name of the new project group. (Please please please indicate the group. It does make life MUCH easier for me, and who wouldn’t want that.)

Back row: Oliver, PM Stephen, James, Flora, William
Middle row: Caspar, Suresh, Natalia, Chaluva
Front row: Venetia, Aashna, PM Cate, Marjolein


Back row: Haydn, Tom, Martha, Jules, Thejas
Front row: Victoria, Jonathan, Helen, Mandisa, Sophie, PM Izi, PM Emma, Shaveh


Back row: Daniel, Alexandra, Christine, Charlie, Isabel, M&E Officer Joe
Front row: PM Harri, Suraj, Ramesh, Eline, Stephen, PM Natalie, Frances, Patrick


Back row: Roosmarijn, Charlotte, James, Kris, Dominic
Middle row: Daniel, Abhishek, Abigail, Jude
Front row: PM Sammy, Joel, Chyna, PM Jenna, PM Chrissi


Back row: Joost, Shaquille, Max, Jonathan
Middle row: Vishnu, PM Matt, PM Janet, Manjunath
Front row: Sally, Rebecca, Laura, Claire (
not on picture: Sophia)


Back row: Jan, Yashaswi, Grant, Vijay, James
Middle row: PM Amanda, Beatrice, Katherine (very right)
Front row: Nicole, Ursula, Wolde, Sofia
Group hugged by PM Barney

Next week, we will visit Tango 6, Charlie 1 and 2, as well as Echo 4 to deliver the latest FA Cup results and report about our overwhelming Cricket victory against the Host Country Venturer Alumni (which WILL happen tomorrow). I smell some project reporting, guest blogging, and messages to YOU, dear reader, so stay tuned.

Friday 17 February 2012

Three guest blogs, two treks, and one lesson in Indian cuisine

A big hello to family and friends of Dan Leigh, Kris Clayton, and Joel Saldanha! Those three musketeers managed to fit a blog writing session about their treks on 13 and 14 February into their busy venturer schedule. Read here about their experiences and be really, really proud. All the others: Enjoy the the firsthand accounts of our venturers' adventures.

Guest blog from Daniel Leigh – Delta 5
13 February was to be the first real taste of our Raleigh lives - the practice trek. Delta groups 1, 3 and 5 had the pleasure of embarking, whilst 2, 4 and 6 had to check their excitement and wait for next day. After waking up at the totally reasonable time of 4:30 am, we sped through breakfast, packed our bags and boarded the buses, ready for more death-defying motoring to take us to the start point.
The trek would be around 15km long, taking us through farmland, local villages and to a swimming site at a nearby river. What was particularly striking, right from the start, was just how different this environment was from anything I, and I’m sure many of my fellow venturers, had ever seen before. The excited villagers, overwhelmingly eager to see us and have their photos taken, the packed motorcycles, and honking tuk-tuks were only some of the things that were powerfully new and fascinating. The scenery was beautiful- a precursor to the stunning sights of Kerala, and even the heat was strangely welcoming (for those of us coming from the arctic wasteland of the UK at least).
The trek also included a short swimming aptitude test - a 200m swim in a local river. The term “swim” might be slightly too generous here, as we all discovered as we crawled, struggled and winced through the weeds, mud and rocks that filled the shallow waters. In spite of this, the interlude was mightily refreshing in the wake of the intense midday sun.
By about 4:00 pm all three groups had reached the campsite, but there was little time for slacking as the site had to be furnished with tents, kitchen areas and a toilet, the homely hole in the ground known affectionately as the “long drop” (don’t worry, there was a tarpaulin cubicle constructed around it to give the squatter some privacy!). As the sun went down and the head torches came on, the baffling ordeal of dinner faced all three groups, which included a demonstration of how to prepare a live chicken halal-style for cooking, an experience that affected us all in different ways I’m sure; for me, my carnivorism was seriously tested. Delta 5’s kitchen was completely communal, but planning had not really received due care and attention. Although the final concoction was pretty much everything that we had boiled up together (food that is), it was remarkably tasty. Who says that you can’t eat gourmet-style in the great outdoors?
Overall it was a very enjoyable and productive experience (I managed to use the long drop for the first time!), and it left us hungry to get out there and begin life on the projects.

Into the wild underwater world
D6 passed with flying colours (Photo by Sophia Knies)
Constructing privacy (note the "supervising" position of the three PMs in the background)
Constructing top notch three person bedrooms
Guest blog from Kristian Clayton – Delta 1
The 13th of February was what I would call the first time seeing ‘real India’. Fieldbase has already placed us in a Raleigh bubble and it was really nice to be able to be out on an adventure. We were completing a 15 km trek with an unusually early morning start for all venturers.
I was in Delta 1 group and after a short bus journey we were the first team to set off. Straight away what amazed everyone was the local people - how excited everyone was to see us Westerners - and it always made me laugh to be told that I’m now in India by many of them, as if I wasn’t already aware. Also their excitement at being photographed never wore out.
As the walk progressed everyone began to really feel the effect of the Indian weather. UK temperatures would do well to exceed 0 degrees before I left; now we were trekking in 30 degrees with 20kg packs on our backs. A lot of water was advised! The heat made everyone extremely excited about the swim test. A short 200 meters swim down the river was just what the doctor ordered; I just wish he could have made the water deeper! It was fascinating to see how the Indian people used the river: a man washing his cow and women doing the laundry for their families. No washing machines here I’m afraid.
After our swim it was a short walk to the campsite. A few new things we all learned were how to dig a hole for waste food, water and one for the toilet. Believe me when I say that the luxury of a toilet is one that should never be taken for granted. Another thing that should not be taken for granted is meat: The locals had a special food chain lesson in store for us: Three live chickens would be prepared to be our dinner. Having been a vegetarian when I was younger, this was very hard to watch, let alone try to do myself, as some other venturers did. However, with the way the daily vegetable curry has become quickly very boring, it was a welcome diversion, indeed.
The day ended nicely with everyone sitting around the campfire and completing the debriefing. All I can say is that if this is just a taster, then the projects to come are going to be amazing!

Author Kris early birding

Little Joe with puppy - Caution: Inside joke! (Photo by Sophia Knies)
Stephen sharing his vast long drop knowledge with Deltas 1, 3, and 5
Guest blog from Joel Saldanha – Delta 4
V-Day was D-Day for Delta teams 2, 4, and 6. After spending four days at the Raleigh Fieldbase, the craving to practice what I learnt had reached the ultimate stage. Ironically the day of our first trek happened to be Valentine’s Day. For all these years this day has called for chocolate, flowers, and probably a movie. However, I realised that chicken and “energy bombs” provide for more entertainment than I could ever imagine.
If not for the vivid landscape, the loud Kannada music on the bus on route to our drop point sure helped bring our senses to life. Being a member of Delta 4 sure has its perks; our three PMs to begin with. Jenna, Chrissi, and Sammy are angels with vibrant and colourful personalities. With regard to the venturers, I am clueless on whom to begin my words of lavish, praise, and respect I have for them.
After walking for 12.2 km it felt extremely amazing to cool ourselves off in the Kapila river. Others really enjoyed the coffee at the chai stand near Maddur. Another sight not be missed was the exchange of “Namaskaaras” (hello in Kannada) between villagers and venturers.
The pace of my team mates was excellent and although we gave Delta 2 a 20 minutes head start, we somehow managed to overtake them rather easily. Not like it was a contest; it was just nice to see my fellow venturers having their adrenaline pumping. Times got a little stressful upon arrival at campsite due to lack of water, but some sharing with our frenemies Delta 2 and 6 and the generous help of a local got even this problem solved.
Our dinner was preceded by a course in Indian food preparation by Manju - from the live chicken to the meal in our mess tins, including humane killing and plucking. I took the honour in doing it for my team and it has been an instructive lesson on where our food comes from.
Delta 6 teamleader Barney concluded the evening with a brilliant reflection session around the campfire; an adequate ending of a smooth Valentine’s Day.

Our favourite chai stand
Author Joel behind a motorcycle that has space for at least 4 more persons.
Some Delta 6, some more village kids, and one joker
Team Delta 4

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Screening today: “School of Raleigh”, “Snakes on a Fieldbase”, and “Chariots of Water”

During the two days the venturers have been here, we did our best to destroy them with vast amounts of knowledge and entertainment, but they have been holding up like aces. All the training sessions we have been covering in one week time (see this blog post), they got served in only two days: GPS-tracking, map reading, voice procedures including learning the phonetic alphabet (and it is still “U” for “unicorn”!), situational/incident/trip/medical reporting, casualty evacuation procedure, (gasp… are you still with me?) hygiene and medkits, medical emergencies, basic life support, and trauma. They also got a presentation of what we (and they) will be up to in Phase I, during which our PMs tried to lure them into their respective projects, promising elephant-dung reading, excrements-into-energy-transformations, and toilet humour.

Some recovery positioning
Some casevacing
The Manchester City stadium should be right here then...
I said "uniCORN"!
For all these efforts they received the special treat, which we never got (just like blog comments, my dear friends and family of PMs!): World famous Shyam brought snakes, style, and knowledge to our Fieldbase. Looking like an Indian Ringo Starr, Shyam is a snake rescuer and rehabilitator, wildlife conservationist, public educator, and all in all the first person to call if you find a snake in your house. If you want to see him in action, you can check out the BBC’s “Caroline Quentin - A Passage Through India” (Episode 3). Bringing his vast collection of non-venomous and venomous snakes into Fieldbase, he triggered a spectrum of emotions, from plain “I have to run”-fear (hissing cobras are not very popular) to adventurous “I have to open this box”-curiosity (truly excellent idea, if a Russell’s viper is in it). But more importantly: He shared his experiences with regard to snake identification, removal, and bites, as well as general wildlife safety measures with us, so we know what to watch out for and how to react.

Shyam the man
Not everybody's cup of tea
Do not pet; it's cute but venomous.
After a long day of brain-challenges, we got all athletic, as our Greek gods of war Izia, Mattos, and Rhysos staged Raleigh Olympics. The Deltas entered into a fierce competition over wheelbarrow racing, Indian style water bearing, and other proper Olympic disciplines. I have no idea who won, as things got seriously out of hand and we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of “Water Wars - The Venturer Strikes Back”.

Indian-style water bearing - Level 1

Indian-style water bearing - Level 2
How to start a water fight
How to end a water fight
On Monday (Teams 1, 3, and 5) and Tuesday (Teams 2, 4, and 6), our Deltas got their walking boots on early in the morning and left for a 15 km trek, including swimming, overnight camping, and loads of impressions of rural India. As I had to hold the Fieldbase-fort and stand ready for Charlie-Oscar-Mike-Mike-Sierra, the trek section will be covered through guest blogging by outrageously talented venturers. It may be your friend’s firsthand experience, so keep watching this space.

P.S.: A big THANK YOU to all the people that commented; it made the day of our venturers. Keep it coming!