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

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

Friday 30 November 2012

Tango Five - Still Alive (And Kicking)

Ruth and I paid a quick visit to Tango Five and Charlie Two this week, while David and Simon each spent a couple of days digging with Echo Three.

So here’s the first of three blogs covering our visits.

Ruth and I joined Tango Five late last Sunday afternoon towards the end of their survival day. They’d spent the day building themselves a shelter for the night (tents having been temporarily confiscated), preparing a meal from locally sourced ingredients and – joy of joys – listening to Radio Raleigh.

Their campsite was certainly bijou, but, following an application of salt along the ground around the shelter, almost leech-free.

Just to be on the safe side - Carline in leech socks
As tends to be the case on trek, the night was an early one, which meant that we were up nice and early on Monday morning for a hearty breakfast of (fill in the gaps) p……e.

Preparing breakfast and packing at the bijou campsite
Monday was a fun and easy day. An hour spent building a bamboo raft was rewarded with a 2km raft trip along a river, followed by the rest of the day spent in kayaks and a dinghy completing a 10 km stretch, with stops for refreshments along the bank. (Sorry but I didn't take any pictures for fear of my camera drowning!)

The new campsite was a field in the middle of a rubber plantation. Dinner was fairly late in trek terms, as we awaited the arrival of the supply drop to replenish the supplies consumed during previous days.

Late dinner and sorting out the supply drop. Joris looking 'smooth'  after his recent haircut

The next morning brought the arrival of a man in a balaclava wielding a machete. Happily he’d only come to empty the rubber cups and re-strip the trees!

Man clad in  balaclava tending the rubber trees Who said it was hot in India?

We left the team on Tuesday morning just after breakfast. They were all in great spirits and looking forward – albeit some with a little trepidation - to their 40 km cycle adventure.

Before we left, Carline and Joris kindly provided the following guest blog:

Tuesday morning, 27 November 2012

From the first moment we left the bus after a five-hour drive it was hot and our bags were already too heavy. The first 700 metres were the most challenging, but step by step we became more and more used to walking with twenty kilogrammes on our backs. As soon as we arrived at our first campsite three and a half hours later, we all forgot how tough our first walk had been when we saw the beautiful view of mountains and a waterfall in the distance.

After taking advantage of an unexpectedly good shower facility, we cooked our first group meal and then all enjoyed a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we left our first campsite. Day 2 was an incredible day, on which we walked 8 km with backpacks and 4 km without. These 4 kms were straight uphill and we had to climb over two peaks. After this extremely hard walk we arrived at a lovely cooling lake, where we all sat down and relaxed. Overnight we slept on top of a water tower with the most amazing view.

On the next trekking days the walking distances became longer (12 and 14 kms), but our bags became slightly lighter as we ate all the meals we were carrying. Even on the hardest moments of trekking we kept our spirits up because of the beautiful views we had. We walked through tea plantations, jungle, high grasslands and over mountains.

But … it wasn’t only sunny! On day 4 the rain suddenly came pouring down for an hour and a half. We were forced to wear our ponchos over our backpacks and we got soaking wet! And if that wasn’t enough… Arriving at our wet new campsite, we were eaten alive by leeches, our biggest enemies on this trek (after our backpacks and some blisters!)

Day 5 was all about surviving. We ate local chicken, which was lovely, and we slept under a self-made shelter.

All things considered, these first five days have been absolutely fantastic, and we are all looking forward to everything which is coming. We are laughing, sweating, walking, struggling and chilling – enjoying everything at the same time!

Big kisses to all our loved ones at home!

Last but not least, here’s a short video of your loved ones saying hello from the rubber plantation.

News from Charlie Two will follow very soon …

Saturday 24 November 2012

All Four Projects On Track - More News Later This Week

This is a quick update to confirm that all four project teams are now well established on Phase 3.

David, Ruth and I will be out and about visiting some of them during the next few days, and so I hope to bring you news from at least three teams by the end of the week.

Call back then ...

Thursday 22 November 2012

Phase 2 Slideshow and Movember Update

Now that the groups are all deployed on Phase 3, here’s a chance to enjoy looking back on some of the things they did during Phase 2.

This slideshow was collated and shown by David a couple of evenings ago during second changeover.

Also, I promised an update on our Movember challenge around now. None of our brave heroes has yet achieved ‘moustachio supremo’ status. In fact ‘moustachio visibilo’ has been stretching one or two! However, we still have a few days to go.

To see how some of us were looking at second changeover, and also to see an interloper putting us all to shame, please do take a look at our Movember website.

We’ve raised USD 450 so far, mainly thanks to three very generous benefactors. We’d much appreciate further donations to this good cause of men’s health – no amount is too large or too small – before 30 November. Thanks!

More news from the teams in due course…

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Phase 3 Allocations Are Announced

The Venturers and PMs have been having a relaxing time at Fieldbase, culminating yesterday evening in a splendid barbecue that they themselves prepared. They spent much of the afternoon happily peeling vegetables and preparing the food while they chatted and exchanged stories. Thoroughly therapeutic, it seemed to me.

This was followed by a couple of hours around a bamboo campfire, being serenaded by Adele, Raja and Chris on guitar.

Around the campfire or burning the barbecue?
Adele and Chris - practising for Glastonbury?

This morning brought Expedition 12J's final allocations. The teams and projects for Phase 3 are:

PMs: Blair, Harry
Venturers: Appu, Caroline, Crystal, Fiona, Quinten, Sam, Seth, Sridhar

PMs: Alex, Jenny, Laura
Venturers: Alice, Alstair, Gilles, Lennard, Mel, Raja, Shahid

PMs: Emma, George, Hannah
Venturers: Carline, Frederique, Hinesh, Jenny K, Joris, Kana, Kavya, Mangesh, Rory

PMs: Jess, Lou, Sarah
Venturers: Amber Elisa, Angus, Chris, Carrot, Fabian, Jocelyn, Pauline, Shivam, Stalin

I'll update the team and project locations on the map you can reach by clicking under PHASE MAPS on the right within the next day or so.

Adele and Dan are bowing out at this stage, as they’re both ‘7-weekers’ who joined 12J for the first two phases only. We wish them all the best for the future.

The new teams are spending today on a combination of packing, relaxing and jollity, before deploying tomorrow morning.

More anon …

Sunday 18 November 2012

Echo Three - Through The Eyes of 12J’s Youngest Venturer

Expedition 12J’s youngest Venturer is Joris, one of our ‘Dutchies’. Recently turned seventeen, Joris combines a youthful enthusiasm, mischievousness and sense of humour in a way that has been a constant source of fun for us all – and occasionally challenge for his PMs!

Joris - Lost in India or wearing the wrong T-shirt?

Immediately on arrival back at Fieldbase today, Joris came bounding up to me and said, ‘Graham, I have a guest blog for you. It’s excellent!’

So here it is. It gives his personal impressions of his time with Echo Three. I hope you like it as much as Joris (and I) did.

As soon as we left the bus, it was raining for twenty-four hours. But we could see how marvellous it would be when the sun shone. And then it did – waking up in the morning, looking at the sun while eating breakfast, amazing! 

Our days have involved waking up at six, breakfast, work, lunch, work until five, dinner, relaxing and bed. Sleeping in bashas has been a wonderful experience.

We worked with the masons every day. The work was really hard, but realizing who you were doing it for kept us going right until the last day.

Swimming in the reservoir after work was the most relaxing part of the day. Realizing how good life is at home is very strange – waking up, showering as long as you want, eating as much as you want, drinking clean water.

Getting to know the group better and better during the phase so that you will never forget them, sitting around the campfire at night having meetings, it has all been so good. The things I will miss are the people, the environment, the work, all the sweet children, the way of life here, and working so hard as one big team – Echo Three.

More news of the teams very soon ...

Two Phases Down, One To Go – All Projects Back At Fieldbase

This morning brought the return of all four project groups, safe and smiling, to Fieldbase for second changeover. This marks the completion of Phase 2.

As I write, they’ve all unpacked their kit and gone into Mysore for an afternoon’s sightseeing and shopping. Probably much to the delight of the local Domino’s pizza house!

They’ll spend an entertaining and relaxing three days here at Fieldbase before they deploy on to Phase 3 on Wednesday.

Coming very shortly -  more news, a Movember moustache and donations update, and the new team and project allocations for Phase 3 ...

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Intrigue And Mudslinging At Charlie Two!

It’s all happening down in Chapanthodu!

This news is brought to you thanks to our special guest correspondent, Hinesh.

12 November 2012

Hello again, real world. I must apologize for the timing of this long overdue update of Charlie Two’s adventures, but time is, quite frankly, flying out here, and it’s somehow it’s already been thirteen days since we left our comrades at Fieldbase.

I’m happy to inform you that all of our Venturers and lovely PMs are happy and healthy, albeit a little frustrated at the progress of our work to date. Since we last wrote to you, we have completed the digging of the foundations and cesspits of all eight houses, and cemented seven of these foundations. In addition, we have built the walls and bricked the cesspits for five of the toilets with two sets semi-constructed.

However, a serious unfortunate incident regarding the delivery of the materials (i.e. they haven’t shown up yet) has meant that our progress has slowed considerably. Regardless, the ever optimistic Charlie Two team are still hopeful that, with the addition of a second mason and some more materials, we will still complete the work in time for the inauguration ceremony this coming Saturday.

Luckily we have plenty to keep us occupied during this lull in doing toilet building we have had. We’ve received two visits from the lovely Loop, for whom we laid on an elaborate murder mystery event. This was based on the tragic demise of the fictitious ninth Venturer Gertrude Jones, from Bangor in Wales at the hands of one guilty member of Charlie Two.

Gertrude seemed to be a very abrasive character, with the investigation unearthing potential motives from nearly every member of the group. In her short time with Charlie Two, Gertrude apparently managed to get embroiled in a love triangle, break up a ‘bromance’, and drive PM Jenny to supposedly scream profanities and expletives at her for all to hear. Also involved were a pair of high-heeled flip-flops and a broken mirror.

The teams on the Loop had to question, or interrogate, the individuals to try to find the killer, location and the weapon used, in true Cluedo fashion. Points were given to the teams for the style and depth of the investigation, and the winner will be announced at the next changeover.

Is the 'assailant' one of these suspicious-looking people?
Loop detectives Anna and Ruth think they've found the culprit
(with the help of super sleuth Graham - that's me - behind the camera)
We have also been filming for the expedition music video. This has involved dancing in tea plantations, skipping down hills, and a memorable scene where the Venturers had the chance to get back at PMs, which led to Sarah, Jenny and Lou being covered head to toe in mud. A full-scale mud fight followed, with even the CTRD rep, Shree, getting his rather smart clothing splattered with mud. We’ve all paid dearly for our five minutes of fun though. There’s a large pile of laundry to do, and I think there’s still mud in my hair.

Well that’s about it so far. Tomorrow (Tuesday) being Divali means no work, and so it seems to be the ideal time for our day trip. We’re off to explore some caves in the morning and then are going to spend the afternoon in Sultan Bathery to try and buy some extra supplies for the final phase and some souvenirs for a lucky few at home.

We send all our love to everyone at home, and especially to Becky who didn’t actually make it on to phase. We hope you’re recovering quickly and I’m personally very jealous of your business class flight home. Till the next time …

Note: CTRD (Centre for Tribal and Rural Development Trust) is an NGO working to develop tribal communities on the borders of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.  It is Raleigh’s local partner on this project.

Watch out for more news for the other teams as it comes in...

Monday 12 November 2012

News from Charlie One – Immersed in Gandanahalli

On this last of four blogs from Anna’s and my recent trip around the projects, I’m posting some photos I took that I hope will give you a flavour of Gandanahalli. This is the village where Charlie One are living (in a school) and working (building eco sanitation toilets). It’s by far Expedition 12J's largest village, with a population of around 7,000 people.

You’ll also see a very short video of your loved ones waving hello as they set off for an afternoon’s work.

But first and foremost, here’s a guest blog kindly written by Jocelyn, giving her impressions of living and working in this fascinating, tightly packed rural community.

We’ve been having bandales of fun here, while working hard of course. This community phase has placed our banter-filled group in the village of Gandanahalli, with the task of building ten eco sanitation toilets. Although this may sound like quite a simple task, I shall quickly share with you some of the daily challenges that Gilles may even describe as hair-raising, that we are faced with. 

Obviously there is the constant language barrier, which is a day-to-day struggle, especially when mixing with cultures so different from your own. Yes, Dan’s northern ways have been difficult for us all to adapt to.

The northern tongue is not the only difficulty our group of twelve has had to overcome. There is also the constant threat of vicious and exotic animals, such as the charging cows, bands of rampant roosters and grizzly goats which have been fought quite bravely by the likes of Ali, Fabian and Pauline. And forced us always to walk in pairs wearing our PPE or protective equipment with Raleigh pride.

Although by now I’m sure you’ll all be aware just how tough this project has been and will continue to be, I will share with you the worst of our struggles brought to us by the naivest and most innocent of the community. A simple question which brought our group near to despair: ‘ What is your name?’ And even when our weary and tired selves succumb to answering the children who surround us at every opportunity, we do not always get the response we may have hoped for - as Miaow, formerly known as Mel, has discovered.

However, our time here at Gandanahalli has not all been trial and tribulation. After a hard day’s work alongside the fast-paced masons, the ‘top lad’ with the simple ring of his bicycle bell can lift our spirits, as he brings delicious meals to our mess tins. He has become our hero of the night, and afternoon, although he has yet to win the battle against Ali’s forever rumbling stomach. We’re planning a special treat for Harry’s birthday, but it won’t be anything too rich out of respect for Laura’s keen sense of smell!

With an Indian Sean Connery who looks uncannily like Shivam by our side, and Raja’s persistent hard work and constant smile, alongside Emma’s musical talents, the ecosan toilets are standing proud through the rubble of bricks and scaffolding. And as we retire to our classrooms each night, with Pauline blushing a crimson red, after numerous winks and kisses have been thrown at her, and Fabian is settled into his sleeping bag listening to Stephen Fry uttering the sweet words of Harry Potter, we can rest easy, knowing that our hard work is paying off.

To complement the picture already in your mind's eye, here are some of the sights:

The daily commute to work - by vehicle ...
... or on foot
Accommodation can be quite basic ...
... or more sophisticated
Life revolves around animals and farming
Everywhere the children - these smartly dressed kids are on their way to Charlie One's host school
School lunchtime

Meanwhile, back at some of the worksites ...
Jocelyn proving she can handle a trowel as well pen a blog
Ali and the person formerly known as Mel
The actor, the singer and the blusher
Birthday girl

If you haven't seen the person you care about yet, fear not! Here's everyone saying a quick hello.

Difficult to believe, but it's less than a week now until the teams return to Fieldbase for Second Changeover. Meanwhile I'll update you on any news as and when I receive it.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Another Night, Another Basha - News from Echo Four

Following our recent flying visit to Echo Three a few days ago, it would have been churlish not to visit Echo Four. Their camp was a short ten-minute walk away along the shore of the reservoir. The bashas are so comfortable that another night in one was something to look forward to.

As we approached their campsite, George stepped out to greet us. As he’s a medic, it seemed only right to greet him with a ‘Dr Pavey, I presume.’ He then handed out the menu for the day and apologized that there were no chocolates on the basha pillows (nor pillows either, come to think of it.)

As with Echo Three, hospitality was to be reciprocated by digging, just as we’d done the day before. Echo Four’s project is similar to Echo Three’s – four biogas units for four beneficiary families, about fifteen minutes’ walk from the campsite. More holes, more chai, more smiling children.

But only for half a day, as we all had the morning off. Time to relax, catch up on some sleep, do some washing or write our memoirs.

Then after lunch it was on with the boots (no lapsing of Health and Safety standards at Raleigh) and down to the worksite for a few hours’ grafting. After work came Radio Raleigh, dinner and another early night under the stars.

Here are some photos I took during our very brief stay. Sadly I didn’t manage to catch everyone or do a ‘hello’ video. But please rest assured that they’re all still there and no-one’s escaped!

'Dr Pavey, I presume'
Seth (the one one the right)
Frederique unreefing her shorts
Quinten not blowing his nose on his towel
Rory - 'I thought they said it was a black tyre event' 
Chris and that woman again - who's the best dressed? 
Anna engaging in skills transfer
'Now we're all clean, it's time to go and get dirty again'
'There were we, diggin' this hole, hole in the ground...'
Happy beneficiaries
The master mason checking how the hole measures up

The next morning before breakfast we were off to Charlie One, the subject of the next blog …

News From Echo Three

During Anna’s and my recent short visit to Echo Three with the Loop a few days ago, we were treated to the delights of sleeping in bamboo and canvas bashas on the shore of a serene and picturesque reservoir about a kilometre away from the worksites in Gandathur.

To pay for the privilege, we were of course enlisted into the digging brigade. The first part of installing each biogas unit involves digging a very large hole – over a metre deep by nearly four metres wide! Fortunately the beneficiaries – and of course their children – join in to make this arduous task lighter and more entertaining.

The team is constructing four units during this phase.

Once the holes are finished, the skilful part starts – constructing the biogas digester domes, under the guidance of a local technical mason. Our visit came too early to see this, but Simon and David are out with the second loop at the moment and will hopefully bring some pictures when they return next week.

Meanwhile here are a few photos that I took.
Bashaland - the blue shelter is the communal chilling area
Local colour - ladies washing by the reservoir
The health problem to be solved by biogas - harmful, acrid firewood smoke every mealtime
Digging the hole for the biogas unit
Hooray! It's deep enough
Carrying the 'jelly' (stones) for the next step. It takes two ...
... or does it?!

Last but not least, here are two short ‘hello’ videos. The first shows everyone except Hannah and Jess, who were missing when the time came to film the team about to leave for work (doubtless for excellent reasons!) The second one is their own special clipette. I hope you enjoy them.

News of Echo Four and Charlie One will follow very soon ...

News from Charlie Two In The Hills of Tamil Nadu

Anna, Ruth and I recently enjoyed a brief visit to Charlie Two at their bijou ‘home from home’ in Chapanthodu, a small tribal village nestling among the hilly tea plantations of Tamil Nadu.

The hospitality of the team and the local people was superb, including an Agatha Christie style murder mystery the team had conjured up for us! Did we guess the guilty party? We’re still waiting to find out!

Here are a few photos I took, and a short ‘hello’ video of the team. But first, a guest blog kindly written by Carline to give you a feel for how well they’ve settled in.

Hello, home! This is the first message from the fantastic Charlie Two group.

 At this moment it’s 10 pm, and we’re all in our tents chatting with our roomies and laying on our beloved muddy ground. It’s only been five days since we left Fieldbase, but we already have loads of new experiences!

After we left at 7 o’clock on Wednesday morning we started the phase with a lovely Indian breakfast on our way. We drove five hours until we arrived in the village, called Chapanthodu. We received an incredibly warm welcome from the villagers, who handed us beautiful flower bouquets and necklaces. They led us to our new ‘home sweet home’ for the next three weeks, and we were given our first cup of chai.

Our home means a little actual house where we can store our bags and tools, and where we enjoy delicious meals made by the villagers together, in front of which is a muddy space of ground where we have pitched our tents.

The first few days were full of … RAIN. From the moment we arrived until 48 hours later, it rained non-stop. But that didn’t stop us from working! As everyone got completely soaked, and the wet muddy ground almost washed us away, we started digging the toilets in the village. The first stage included digging the foundation and the cesspits for the toilets.

Luckily the villagers were all extremely friendly and helpful, so most of us stayed dry for at least the nights. Being here has made us reinvent the idea of eating by candlelight and waterproof jackets!

After three days we finally saw the sun, and we could have a good look at the beautiful environment we’re living in. The place is surrounded by tea plantations, palm trees, rainforests and hills.

The next stage in the project is cementing the foundations, as we spent the last two days on making the cement slabs. We’re now happily enjoying the sun, and the peaceful living up here. Can’t wait to update you guys again, and let’s hope the sun will keep shining for us!

Love, Charlie Two.

A compact living environment
'These boots are made for working'
Before work - an energizer ...
... and a curious onlooker
Working now - transporting bricks by human chain
250 bricks later
Another beneficiary house, ...
Another toilet, ...
And another breakfast! Carline sitting on the right. Anna asking for more?
Charming and hospitable beneficiaries

Lastly, here's a quick hello from the team ...

News from the other three projects will follow very soon.