It was Raleigh India’s most precarious endeavour. Fieldbase staff were nervously crossing fingers until the last minute. The moment we heard the magic words “Hello darlings, how are you?”, joy, glee, and – most importantly – relief were overflowing. After handling numerous means of Indian transport like a boss, overcoming culinary and entertainment obstacles in Mumbai, and juggling Communications with Fieldbase in his well-know maverick-ish manner, our Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Joe DID manage to find his 1000 km way home from the Echo 3 turtle conservation project in Velas.
In his hands, he held the golden Echo 3 Blogbook, in which venturer Stephen Lovell compiled a comprehensive account of events from Raleigh India’s most remote project. And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:
|Echo 3 Breakfast Club including author Stephen (4th from left)|
Echo 3’s venture started off with an experience that none of us will ever forget: A 12-hour ride on one of the infamous Indian sleeper trains. Our group of 14 was separated into air-conditioned and non air-conditioned coaches, and - as you may have guessed - the latter team got the better story to tell. Sharing the trip with a train full of Indians made peace and quiet somewhat impossible (although Frances managed to nod off now and again). However, the highlight was definitely Charlie making 20 new friends after the first strum on his guitar, who consequently would not leave his side. In true Charlie-style, he powered on for the remaining 11 hours 59 minutes, playing numerous card games whilst being photographed like he was David Beckham.
|Apparently they stopped at One Tree Hill train station|
|Charlie Strummer and friends|
After another coach journey, we finally reached Velas, being warmly welcomed by our project leader Bushan and taken to the families that would host us for the next two days. Their generosity puts our “travel lodges” to pot: Massive food portions left not even the heartiest eater hungry, despite the restriction to eat without cutlery and with only your right hand. These two days were used to set up our own home for the next two and a half weeks.
|Cutlery is cheating!|
Building a camp by the beach certainly is a fun task, but don’t be fooled; it’s not an easy one! However, with sheer determination, creativity, and hard graft we created a little jewel that blew previous Echo 3-bases out of the water. We are particularly proud of our basher-arrangement, the free-standing 3-bowl-system, and our sunset/sunrise-lounge equipped with hammocks and inventive seats – an environment that triggered out-of-this-world-cooking-skills, Charlie’s continuous guitar strumming, numerous games of “Mafia”, and extended sessions of star-gazing.
However, most importantly we came here to work and support the locals in protecting the threatened Olive Ridley Turtle, which lays its eggs on the beach. The eggs then hatch and the baby turtles make their way back into the sea. Since 2002, the village has set up a trust to protect these turtles, but funds and manpower are limited. Enter Echo 3! We have been given the task of developing the path which links the village to the beach; during our phase we focus on the erection of steps that used to get washed away, and on creating a series of signs to inform tourists about the species and remind them to keep the beach clean. So far, the biggest challenge has been moving the large 35 kg bricks down the 1 km path from the village to the beach, but thanks to Eline’s great idea, we also mastered this task.
We were also able to visit the local school and talk about our work, what they can do to support their community, and the importance of not littering on the beach.
Last but most definitely not least, we learned a lot about turtles, for example how to find the eggs. However, Dan and Suraj were not impressed when they dug for 40 minutes in search of 60-80 eggs, only to realise that they were being teased and just found a ping pong ball. Throughout our phase, we have been extremely lucky to see baby turtles hatching. Those small creatures making their way back to the sea is a remarkable thing to watch and to cheer for.
As you can see, our time here has been jam-packed since the minute we left Fieldbase and we are looking forward to more.
|Adorable baby turtles in bag|
|Adorable baby turtles on their way to the ocean...|
|... causing a scene.|
And now: Messages written just before falling asleep to the sound of the Arabian Sea: