David and I have just returned from a three-day visit to Tango Five.
Our visit had been delayed by a day because of the annual Ayudha Pooja blessing, which took place at Fieldbase on Tuesday morning. All the tools and equipment had to be blessed, including the generator, vehicles, computers and hand tools!
In the case of our Bravo vehicle, this involved waving incense and a flame, ringing a bell, attaching leaves and chillies, throwing a watermelon containing red paint at it, painting the wheels and steering wheel and running over lemons! A fascinating glimpse into an aspect of Hindu culture.
|'Blessed be the Bravo'|
|David and I selflessly pitched on the grass, leaving the best sites to Tango Five|
|Shahid, Lennard and Appu stopping for chai in the shade|
|Our campsite for two days - cosy and near a river|
|Enjoying a good night out - trek style|
|Mel and Ali trying a revolutionary new porridge recipe - stirring anti-clockwise|
|Jess pointing to her new hairstyle?|
|Alice and Lou - surely not laughing at Jess's new hairstyle?|
The arduous part came next – a hillside climb of somewhere around 700-1,000 metres, much of it through long grass. The team, fighting fit after fourteen days’ hard exercise, handled it with ease. I, softened by six weeks of ‘easy living’ at Fieldbase, found it more of a challenge and was not exactly at the front, shall we say.
After a quick cheese and cracker lunch, the spectacular part of the trek began. Clambering through bat caves was followed by beautiful views reminiscent of Austria as we made our way along the ridge.
|Quinten taking everything in his stride|
|Appu and Shahid proudly showing off their country|
|Tango Five - on top of the world|
|Eat your heart out, Bollywood - Dave attempting to remake Wuthering Heights with Ali as Heathcliff?|
Thursday was a cycling day through some beautiful scenery and lush fields of crops – rubber, rice, tobacco, bananas and many more. A wide variety of abodes was on show, from very basic to almost palatial. And there was a river crossing.
|Lennard - always ready to photograph elephants|
|Crystal - enjoying being day leader|
|All-terrain cycling! The water crossing|
Tango Five arrived at their new campsite shortly after lunch, in time for David, Big Manju (our driver) and me to get back to Fieldbase before dark. We left the team in good spirits and look forward to seeing them and the other teams on Monday when they return to Fieldbase for first changeover.
As Phase One of Expedition 12J draws to close, I can think of no better way to round things up than to commend to you the following guest blog which Mel kindly phoned in this morning. It gives her overall impressions of her time on Tango Five. Thanks again, Mel!
'Tango Five have been completely and utterly crazy for nineteen days and I’ve loved every minute of it. From day one our group of eleven has been full of enthusiasm and energy as it’s climbed mountains, explored caves, capsized in rivers and eaten enough porridge to keep Quaker Oats in business for another hundred years.
It’s been epic. It’s now day eighteen and I can’t believe how quickly our trip has gone. We have travelled over 220 km, which to me sounds completely insane. Why would anyone want to do that? It sounds masochistic and cruel, completely impossible to actually enjoy, but I’ve had some of the greatest moments out here in Kerala.
It never ceases to amaze me how many smiles and hellos we get as we walk past shops and houses. “Hello, what is your name?’ is said so often, yet it never gets old. “My name is Mel. What is yours?’ And the majority of our answers are just giggles and huge grins from the teeny weeny, bubbly kids. It’s so sweet.
We’ve seen one elephant, heaps of monkeys, a few deer and approximately two million leeches. Tango Five have climbed through caves like Gollum while on search for Nirvana, tackled a 3 a.m. night trek and have never, ever, ever eaten enough parotta. Parotta is life.
The concept of a capsizing war had never occurred to me until our rafting day when our two crazy Dutchies Lennard and Quinten took it upon themselves to do whatever it would take to get everyone in the water. They succeeded numerous times. We had so many that it was really difficult to find an exact figure, but we guesstimated at least twenty! When in the water, stay away from Dutchies.
After three cycling days covering over 130 kms, travelling through serene, lush forests and busy tuk tuk scurrying streets, the universe didn’t think it was fair that I hadn’t fallen off my bike yet. So on our last kilometre of such a stunning trip, I flew over my handlebars, crash landing palms first into the asphalt, and causing poor Jess behind me to do the same. We’re both okay, the only thing wounded being my pride.
I’d never thought I could walk so far. I didn’t even comprehend the idea of a backpack as well as walking so far. But I’ve done it. We’ve done it. Tango Five have conquered Kerala’s roughest of rough and come out smiling, and of course singing. This has been a completely unbelievable experience and I’m so delighted I’ve been able to do it alongside such awesome people.'
Stay tuned for news of first changeover and the team allocations for Phase Two. Plus a hairy charity challenge we're aiming to start on 1 November ...