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 31 March 2012

Phase II Hidden Track: Charlie 2 is Fascinated

I told you this would happen: 
Here is how Charlie 2 | Phase II said thank you to their wonderful host community in Kayuni, Tamil Nadu (and violated some tea plantations):

It's like a revelation ... woh-oh, o-o-oh

Thursday 29 March 2012

Arrive - Shake - Depart

Dearest reader,
First, please let me apologise for the delay of this blog post of ***utmost importance*** for you. Working with the Internet in developing countries is not always the easiest task, but now that everything is up and running again and some megabyte-heavy content has been scrapped (to be published later, I promise!), the Changeover blog post is good to go:

For three days, I had the luxury to barely hear Small Manju’s annoying new rooster, as Fieldbase’s noise level had been risen significantly by 73 venturers and 15 PMs returning.
As this Changeover was a wee bit longer than usual, the graduates amongst the venturers took over and organised a wonderful vacation-like day of beach games, beautification, and barbeque. Thanks to everyone involved for their hard work! It was a perfect conclusion for those venturers who had to leave us after only 7 weeks of expedition: It has been a pleasure to build, trek, and laugh with you Caspar, Jonathan, Jude, Laura, Sophia, and Sophie. We hope you will check this space from time to time to see what your friends are up to and send them some messages (I am sure they would love that). Mrinal, Host Country Venturer from Assam, and latest addition to our Group of Awesome will do its best to fill the gap they left. Try to spot the new face in Tango 5's team photo at the end of this post.

For the cartographers amongst you, I prepared a new Phase Map, showing what is happening where until 15 April. It found its permanent spot just below our other Phase Maps on the right hand side column of the blog; again, in red. Charlie 2 has moved to a brand new village called Koranchal and Echo 4 is in Nellimadu.

View Raleigh 12C Expedition - Phase III in a larger map

And the most important bit: Venturers got reallocated into new and – sadly sadly – final project groups. And it almost didn’t happen:

Raleigh India 12C | Phase 2 Fieldbase | Battle for Allocations

But as you can see, we take holding the fort very seriously and thanks to our concentrated effort, we can show you the new project groups.
More information about the respective projects can be found in this blog post. And again, if you like to pass on a message via a blog comment, please indicate name of venturer (“darling” and “lil panda” does not count!) 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?)
Charlie 1 with PM Natalie, PM Chrissi, James, Vishnu, Beatrice, Shaq, and Yash (back row) and Dan, Abi, Rory, Sofie, Frances, Alexandra, and PM Matt (front row)
Charlie 2 with Joost, PM Richard, PM Janet, Reece, James, and Christine (back row), Charlie, Katherine, PM Amanda, Nicole, Rhian (middle row), and John (Jack) and Roos (front row)
Echo 3 with PM Stephen, Jules, Grant, Mandisa, and Alex (back row), PM Sammy B., PM Sam F., PM Cate, and Suresh (middle row), as well as Ursula, Sally, Tally, Sofia, Jan, and Manju (front row)
Echo 4 with PM Rhys, Haydn, Max, Shaveh, (despite his size almost invisible) Ollie, and Vijay (back row), Charlotte M., Claire, PM Eleri, and Rebecca (middle row), as well as Wolde, Helena, and Venetia (front row)
Tango 5 with Victoria, Will, Raju, PM Barney, Kris, and Jonathan (back row), Chyna, PM Jenna, Stephen, James, Mrinal, and PM Izi (middle row), and Helen, Izi, and Charlotte (front row)
Tango 6 with Thejas, Dom, Tom, Eline, Paddy, Marjolein, and PM Harri (back row), and Flora, Martha, Suraj, Dan W., Aashna, Annie, and PM Emma (front row)

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Tango 6's Tale of Exhaustion, Hygiene, and St. Patrick's Day

It's Changeover and everyone from Charlie 1 to Tango 6 has paid a short visit to Fieldbase just to drop their rucksacks and head straight off to Mysore for swimming pools and train tickets. I grabbed Tango 6's spokesperson Natalia Robinson, hoping to get some news about how their trek in Kerala's remotest parts went. And Tango 6 did not disappoint! So while I am figuring out what kind of madness exactly is going to happen around here during two full days of Changeover (and then tell you about it), you, dearest reader, can enjoy the following south Indian fairytale:
Tango class...
...in front of dramatic views
It is currently day 12-14 of Tango 6’s 19 day trek. You may be wondering why we don’t know which day it is exactly; it’s down to the fact that out here the expression “time flies when you’re having fun” takes on a whole new meaning. Today is also the second of our two rest days, and frankly one that couldn’t have come at a better time for we exhausted Tango 6’ers, most of whom – as I look around me – are soaking up the sun on their roll mats, relaxing surrounded by palm trees, tea plantations, and a beautiful river (in which swimming, fishing, and to our delight also washing have also been used to pass the hours). Quite simply, we are all in paradise.
The fine line between happiness (author Tally) and exhaustion
Three Musketeers
During our time out here in the depths of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Tango 6 - led by our wonderful guides Ragu and Manoush - have managed to summit the second highest mountain in Southern India on only our second day – definitely a group highlight. Needless to say, this was not a task to be taken lightly. Indeed there were fears from some of having to be airlifted. However, Tango 6 stuck together and pulled through – summiting all at once. As we stood (well, in reality lying, dying from exhaustion) taking in our surroundings, which was one of the most breathtaking views any of us had ever seen, we realised what we had all achieved, which made the hard moments a thousand times worth it… that is until we started coming down again.
The summit of Misappulimala
Slight trekking repercussions
Summiting the mountain is far from all Tango 6 have been up to. Apart from the obvious abundance of walking, we also completed a survival day during which we built a shelter, killed two chickens for supper, and taught the local children how to use water pistols. Another day was spent building and sailing our own rafts, which started a heated race between “Team Evil” (led by Cate with Mandisa, Haydn, James, Joel, Helena, and Jules) and “HMS No Problem” (led by Reggie with Charlie, Tally, Reece, Alex, Christine, Ollie and Ragu). By the end of the 16 km journey, we had to deal with a burst tyre (leaving the person at the back fully submerged), a lion king sing off (to which Reggie and Charlie knew an alarming amount), and loads of sore arms. Unfortunately two slight hiccups have become apparent during the Phase: Firstly getting up in the morning (on a good day it takes two hours) and secondly the cooking (let’s just say that we now all know, what Tumeric tastes, looks, and even smells like). Most nights, attempts have been made to cook gourmet food out of Raleigh rations. Yet, sadly most have failed although sandwich spread with pasta has become surprisingly popular and Nutella has never been more appreciated. 
NOT a victim of survival day
HMS No Problem
Team Evil
Good food only on birthdays :o)
Washing has turned into a competition of “Survival of the Fittest” with everyone relishing a wash and a chance to smell “decent” (well, as fresh as you can on trek). A prime example was Cate who managed to bathe in about 3 cm of water = needs must.
St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in true Cate and Reggie style = madness. Accessorised until our group hats (tasteless to say the least) from a local vendour, we were all adorned with glitter paint, badges, and green garlands and accompanied by Paddy, our green inflatable dog. Being stared at suddenly took a on a whole new meaning, especially with our two PMs serenading us with classic Irish songs. 
Ireland 1 : 0 Bermuda
Beauty and hygiene may not be top on our list of priorities, but we are all having one of the most amazing experiences and an incredible time. This is Tango 6 saying hello to all the other groups, hoping they are all having fun. Tango OUT.

And now: Messages that actually do smell "decent":

From Alex

From Joel

From Mandisa

From Mandisa, ignoring the 1 message per person limit

From Mandisa, REALLY ignoring the 1 message per person limit

From author Tally

Monday 26 March 2012

Turtles echo back to Zero

It's Changeover and everyone from Charlie 1 to Tango 6 has paid a short visit to Fieldbase just to drop their rucksacks and head straight off to Mysore for swimming pools and train tickets. In the morning, I found an email from the incredibly efficient Echo 3 in my inbox, who took some time during their stop in Mangalore to report back on their Phase 2 experience. Teenage Ninja Turtle Helen Smith has the following to say:
Author and birthday girl Helen
Echo 3 Explorers Monument
Echo 3 are currently winging their way back to Fieldbase with a lot of sombre looks and wistful expressions after a fantastic phase on Velas beach. We're all heartbroken to leave but had the best possible send-off on our last morning by seeing 60 turtle hatchlings make their slow, unsteady way down the sand to the beach when we woke up. 
No, wait... Not a turtle...
Here we go... Hatchlings released...
Our work has fairly consistently involved levelling, carrying and more carrying - we've been improving the path to the beach from the road so it's easier for tourists to walk down, and we're pretty happy with the chunk we've completed, cementing our names in the step on the bridge being a massive highight. 
They also taught the local kids some English, beach and turtle-related, of course.
By far a better highlight though came one unsuspecting evening just before sunset when Thejas came sprinting into camp yelling "COME, COME, 400kgs" and led us onto the sand to see a huge, full size turtle laying its eggs. A couple of the guys from SNM were there already but otherwise it was just Echo 3, the turtle and the setting sun (this Hollywood worthy scene only slightly marred by Tom and Flora convincing Martha the turtle was actually a fake for demonstration purposes and had 'Made in China' written on its back...) 
Other than this, our days have been spent building ever more elaborate bamboo stuctures for camp, exploring the caves and sink holes on the south side of the beach, and warding off the herds of cows that frequently held our camp under siege trying to sneak in and eat the slops. Overall, I'd say the experience was even better than our last pudding of pancakes, Nutella and condensed milk - and that's saying something. 
Las Velas Camp
Las Velas Jester
Synchronising diaries
Fishing for dinner

This has been Helen Smith for Echo 3, over and out.

No no no, dear reader! As you may know, Zero ALWAYS ends communications and it's not over until WE listen out. Which we will definitely not do until this little comedy jewel and winner of the Changeover Skits Oscars has been presented to a larger audience:

Raleigh India 12C | Phase 2 Echo 3 | Raleigh Health and Safety Tutorial

Rules matter! This is Zero, and only Zero, listening out :o)

Saturday 24 March 2012

The Loop "Trilogy" Part IV - Indiana Echo and the Fourth Kingdom of the Vertical Pole

Just like in the real world, there is a late addition to our Indiana Jones Loop franchise. The fourth part of the trilogy (thank you Douglas Adams, for shifting the paradigm of this word; it makes my work so much easier!) describes the events outfolding in Cheriyery. Curtain up for Echo 4 as seen through the camera of guest bloggers Sam Flood, Aashna Jain, and Katherine Arnot:

A fresh-faced Echo 4 set off on a typically stylish Indian bus, blasting out bhangra delights as we meandered through beautiful Indian villages and forestry.
Upon reaching a very merry Cheriyery, we were welcomed by CTRD representative, Vijay, who happily embraced our drowsy faces and introduced us to the Biogas project and our consequent home for the next three weeks.  Villagers adorned us with garlands of flowers and (of course) lovingly bombarded us with cake and chai. These sugary delights adequately fuelled us for the arduous task of hauling food, tools and equipment from the bus – down slopes, up grassy banks and across rickety bamboo bridges.
Talking of bamboo, which became a bit of a sore point (not least for Katherine – who received a hearty ‘donk!’ on the head in the process), bashas were the first thing on Echo 4’s agenda:  The venturers constructed their campsite from scratch, lashing poles together with coconut rope into innovative bed-like structures amongst leafy, towering palm trees... Sadly after 13 wonderful bashas, we were scraping the barrel for the final 3, which led to creatively using trees along with some of the more vertically challenged bamboo... The next few days paved the way for even more imaginative use of resources – including what can only be described as a ‘Gucci shower’ – expansive, efficient and quite frankly fabulous. Leftover wood and bamboo has been maximized and fashioned into a bench, a table and even a toilet seat to compliment the longdrop, which has been met with some controversy from the group.  Our well-built campsite has withstood torrential downpours, local children playing ball and the lightest venturer in our group (Aashna) breaking everything she sits on.
Soon to be his bed...
... including THIS view.
From campsite to worksite, the team spirit and energy emulated. Mud, sweat and chais (in equal measure) were core features of the work ethic. We masterfully took to sinking mamptees into the soil to hacking desperately at stubborn roots. Though building two six-foot deep holes and two cow sheds can be demanding and tedious, we still find time to fit in fun during our work day. Every day we have breakfast with the families and momentum is maintained via pulling shapes with local village children, and coining musical gems such as ‘Everyday I’m shovelling’, with resounding demands of ‘No rest, only work!’ and ‘No stand, only bend!’ along with further, more dynamic and sadly less publishable, slogans. 
Get diggin'!
We are trying to get the work done as quickly as possible, but there have been a few minor incidents: One involved the local cow, who tried to escape and was chased down the road by half of the group. Another includes a certain member of the group (Will) provoking a romantically frustrated goat and paying the consequences. It was also quite distracting to behold Chrissy as she discovered new uses for the Indian Harris pole, and everyone delighted in seeing her passionately pole dance in one of the holes – nobody else quite matched her vivacity and charm with the mighty rod of steel, though of course they tried.
Good, but still nothing compared to what Chrissy can do with a Harris pole.
One of the highlights for me (and for those who attended) was a trip to the local Church for the Sunday morning service. As a non-religious person, I wasn’t sure whether it’d be as tedious as two and a half hours in a confined space sounds – but I was pleasantly surprised:  Being unable to decipher a word of what the Indian sermons were preaching, and listening to unidentifiable, mystical hymns was genuinely blissful. The hum of collective prayers and spiritual chants presented the perfect backdrop for individual self-reflection – although perhaps not the central purpose of the occasion, it was a moving experience and we were all very grateful to be there, stood next to our Cheriyery family.

When the Loop visited, they were treated to a rather tasteful curry-risotto concoction, and a good old-fashioned juvenile game of Pass the Parcel – our photographer, Bob, was the lucky winner of the main prize; a delightful toy chicken complete with flapping wings and mini wheels for ultimate mobility. Of course the accompanying forfeit suggested he present his best chicken impersonation – and he didn’t disappoint!
Two weeks since arriving and having little understanding of what Biogas was, Echo 4 are now not only more aware of the process, but are also thoroughly enjoying each stage in building the units for the lovely people in the welcoming community of Cheriyery.

Below the latest motion picture release of the franchise, starring Echo 4:

Echo 4 greetings to family and friends

And now: Messages written within the vast abyss of a 6 foot deep chasm in the earth:
From Aashna
From Beatrice
From Will