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 28 October 2012

Tango Five - The Final Few Days

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'
We caught up with Tango Five on Tuesday evening at their campsite in Kerala – a flat drying area in a coffee plantation.

David and I selflessly pitched on the grass, leaving the best sites to Tango Five
 On Wednesday we completed a 12-kilometre trek – fairly flat terrain but very hot weather.

Shahid, Lennard and Appu stopping for chai in the shade
We arrived at our new campsite, which would serve us for two nights, in mid afternoon. Almost immediately on arrival most of us took a dip in the nearby river to cool off and wash skin and clothes. I’m not sure how much cleaner we came out, but we certainly felt much refreshed!
Our campsite for two days - cosy and near a river
The next job was to pitch our tents, change into ‘longs’ and have dinner – predictably noodle-rice- or pasta-based. After dinner, things follow a set routine. First comes the debrief of the day – the day leader giving their view, followed by comments from everyone else including the PMs. Then comes appointment of the next day’s leader, new allocation of jobs (comms, cooking, cleaning etc) and a briefing on the next day’s task. This usually leaves an hour or so for chatting, playing cards etc followed by an early night.

Enjoying a good night out - trek style
On Thursday we rose at 06.00. After the inevitable porridge breakfast, we set off on the 16-kilometre Pakshipathalam trek at 08.30. This was billed as the toughest trek of the expedition. Happily we needed only light packs as we would be returning to the same campsite.

Mel and Ali trying a revolutionary new porridge recipe - stirring anti-clockwise
It started pleasantly enough - a gentle walk through a flat forest looking for elephants (finding only elephant dung, a couple of snakes and an impressive forest squirrel).

Jess pointing to her new hairstyle?

Alice and Lou - surely not laughing at Jess's new hairstyle?
The terrain then became more challenging – still flat but leech-infested. This was my first experience of these creatures. Although very small (about 3 cm long and 2 mm wide in their pre-bloodsucking state) and harmless, their writhing bodies trying to get into my boots and socks reminded me of Raiders of the Lost Ark!

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
After a short stop to film part of a team skit, we set off gently downwards.

Eat your heart out, Bollywood - Dave attempting to remake Wuthering Heights with Ali as Heathcliff?
Nine hours after starting, we were back in the river near our campsite having another much needed wash. After a tasty and filling boil-in-the bag curry dinner, the evening followed its standard routine.

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 ...


  1. Dear Lou,
    12J - Glad to have news of Tango 5 at last. Sounds amazing.
    Life here is interesting. Lizzie in New York for long weekend, having a fab time seeing Ground Zero, Empire State at night, broadway musical, limo rides, spending daddy's money on 5th Avenue etc. Spent last day today at the Airport trying to get out of America, before the hurricane hits the East coast. Think they are literally the last plane leaving JKF as I write!!

    Spent weekend in Abersoch so could see Michael & Sue and Jameo and family were over from Dublin. those boys are at that gorgeous stage. Blue skies and sun yesterday but back to Welsh weather of rain, rain & more rain today.

    Booked Coconut Kitchen for Saturday 22nd December and you're invited!! 8 weeks to Christmas - help, having turkey esp for you this time.
    love you masses
    Ad, Sis and the girlies

  2. Melissa Viola 12J Tango5
    Hey Lis, its zia mim. How is it all going? We really miss you but it sounds like you are having a great time. Its been hard not being able to hear from you direct but the site gives us a pretty good idea what you're up to. Miss you heaps. Love from the coolledgesxxxx
    Hey Liss,what a great blog and photos good to see your face it's been a while :)
    I can't believe all the things that you guys have done some sounds really shhcarry!!!! Hey Mim's helping me here and all mistakes are hers!!
    Just picked up my car looks good as new.WE spent the weekend with Jan and Gordon up at the house and we didn't stop talking,not unusual for Dad huh? He had alovely birthday and says thanks for the Bunnings voucher btw!We also got him a cute Muppets t-shirt cos he looks cute wearing his relos on his chest!!!Reards & love from Jan too.
    Nonno has finally decided that Nonna should go back into care,the one close to their house, thank goodness cos Louise is doing it tough.
    Sim,Jess & Dad went to the Italian consulate on Thursday hopefully they,ll be able to get their passports without too much trouble. I've also made an appt for next Oct same as you.
    Oscy misses you I can tell by the stupid look on his face as per usual!
    thanks for lending us your bedroom even though you had no say in it and btw we had another viewing even though we're not selling, yeah I know we're dumb, least the house is clean again...oh did you want to keep all your shoes & stuff in your room sorry!Just kidding.. maybe..
    Well enough from me ,except to say we miss you & love you Ican,t wait to have you home so you can fill us in on all you adventuers yourself, Big smooch Moo,Dad,Sim,Jess,POP & Oscy xxxxxxx

  3. Seth Somers Tango 6 12j

    I gather from above that you will be back at field base tomorrow..very excited at the prospect of hearing all your news! Lots of love mum xx

  4. Hai Quinten, Great stories. Are you tired? Or are you quite OK? Hope so. And are you learning a lot? Hope so too! How was all the walking? Different from playing a soccergame I assume? Here in Haarlem everything is OK. Working a lot, although the the recent holiday I almost had no students. Two of them are studying all day at my house, because they have to pass their exams this year! Hope for them it works out. Tonight I will have dinner with your sisters in Amsterdam. Next to where Bernou lives, there is this small Italian restaurant. For now I wish you and Tango Five all the best. Big hug from your Auntie Dinanna

  5. To Jess 12J Tango 5 PM
    Woop a picture of you, looks like you got well tanned (or haven't washed for a while...), good to see the watch and bracelet are still going strong!
    Sounds like you've done loads with the venturers, wonder what's next for you?
    It got cold here at the weekend, we had to put the heating on...we were holding out for 1st Nov, damn!
    Also saw the new James Bond film it is awesome! And gave blood last week, except I am left with an epic bruise about 2 inches long and and and my blood was too slow and they didn't get enough in the time alloted I was about 50ml short and they couldn't use the blood just had to bin it, how poo!
    I sent you something by snail mail in time for you back at base camp but not sure how long it takes...
    Anyways tell me all your news when you can, also why you are failing at staying on a bike
    Muchos love
    Lucy and Andy xx

  6. Crystal 12J Tango 5.

    Hi Crystal. Wow- I can't believe you have come to the end of your trek already....19 days in the wilderness. I bet you are so so looking forward to getting a real shower and avoiding the leaches!! The picture of you on the bike is awesome. Such a good photo. We are all thinking of you and are so pleased you are out there having the time of your life.

    Sarah and Monica

  7. Melissa 12J Tango 5

    Hey Meliss! It's Ange, sounds like you are getting up to some amazing things!
    When I read about you flying over your handlebars, it immediately reminded me of your crash on the bike ride that time haha! Can't trust you on a bike
    2 million leeches!! you need to see more elephants, hope you got a photo of it. I'm very impressed with you traveling 220km, that's insane! Don't come home too buff.
    Hope phase two is just as fun and amazing!

    I finished exams last Wednesday and am now putting all my energies into my To Do List- I'll leave a couple for us to do together when you get back.

    Can't wait for all your stories! Miss you heaps!
    Love from Ange

  8. Hi Melissa.
    What an exciting time you are having.
    What an experience!!
    Can't wait for the next chapter.
    Miss you.
    Take care.
    Zia Louise and Zio Robert xx

  9. Hi Jenny K Seen all your photos with Charlie 2 looks like you are having a great time Hope you enjoy your next phase Get the name of that spade! Got your e-mail everyone here fine love you mum and dad xx

  10. Hi crystal u look amazen hunny brandon is so proud of his big sister he keeps telling every1 in school . U r my amazen daughter and I'm so proud of u keep it up .see u soon ( yip am countin the days lol ). Love u .from mum

  11. Hi crystal iv just so the pictures of u .the time has flown by and I'm so proud or u and ur wee brother brandon keeps telling every1 my sister is helpn in india .keep up the good work crystal and ill see u wen ur home (yip am countn the days lol ) love u from mum

  12. Hi crystal tuckey its mum avetext darlye 4 u and he can't waite to see you hunny (but hey me daz n dianne will see u be4 darly lol) only a couple weeks til ur home thank god coz am missn u and so is dazzy boy well done to u n ur team hunny am so proud of u but more inportant I moss my daughter xxx