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May 2010

Back to Lubasi

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

So the first volunteers of 2010 have arrived and our first stop was a visit to the spectacular Victoria Falls. The Zambezi River is very full after the rainy season and at the moment the falls really live up to their local name “Mosi O Tunya” – meaning the smoke that thunders. Whilst I have been away the government have doubled the entry fees but without warning and any given reason, it’s a very controversial topic locally. Locals pay much less than tourists but their reduced fees have tripled!!
We walked down to the boiling pot at the base of the falls which has a micro climate much like a mini rainforest because of the constant spray from the falls. There are plants and flowers here you can’t find anywhere else in the area. The climb up again was tough but then we went to see the falls close up from knife edge bridge and got absolutely soaked by the spray…it was like somebody had thrown us in a swimming pool but good for cooling off!

This week we have been visiting the Lubasi home as schools are still on holiday but both the volunteers and the children got so much out of spending consecutive days together. It’s great to see the trust building and the kids becoming more confident! All the children aged 3 to 17 joined in with our sessions and read a huge variety of books and partook in crafty activities afterwards, masks and friendship bracelets were the favourites with the youngsters. The children delight in showing us what they have been up to; be it learning to write or doing amazing back flips. Each day they would eagerly ask “are you coming again tomorrow?” Friday was hard; having to tell them we wouldn’t be back for a week. We are already looking forward to next Friday afternoon!

One afternoon we visited the colourful and ever vibrant Maramba market which is just opposite the home. You can buy almost anything here, from chickens to tyres and from material to taps. The food market it an assault on all your senses, especially smell! This is the “real” Africa where locals go about their daily business and we are a novelty walking around in our yellow t-shirts!

We have also watched the excellent local dance & culture show “Dancing around Zambia” performed by Livingstone Performing arts foundation at the Zambezi Sun resort. Inspired by the dancing the very next day the girls all attended a dance workshop to try and learn the moves! The Lubasi children were then treated to a demonstration on Friday which they found “interesting!!” And last night we went for a traditional Zambian meal, where knives and forks are banned!!

Overall it has been a very successful first week despite the bus still being “grounded” due to the road condition and everyone has enjoyed the week spent getting to know the Lubasi orphans and the real Zambia!

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Apr 2010

Return to Zambia!!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

Returning to Livingstone I was expecting sunshine and blue skies. What I got was a gigantic storm with extraordinarily heavy rains which washed away many roads and surprised all the locals as storms are usually unheard of in April. Since then it has been windy and cloudy but at least no more rains, so fingers crossed that is it for this season. The river is at an all time high and from the plane the falls looked magnificent, I shall have to pay a visit this weekend but with the prior knowledge that I will be getting absolutely soaked!

This week I have been busy preparing for the imminent arrival of the first of this year’s Bookbus volunteers. The bus has had a spring clean and service, although owing to the state of the roads it won’t be moving anywhere for a while. The tents are all up and the kitchen has had a make over. The grotto is as tranquil as ever (well at least at the moment as there are no overlanders!) In fact town is incredibly quiet; there don’t seem to be any tourists around at all.

The schools are currently on holidays so next week we will be paying a visit to our friends at Lubasi home for 5 days. I visited yesterday and they are very excited to have us back, both the children and the carers. A visit to the ministry of education brought us to their attention once again and we will be carrying out our programme with their blessing. We are hoping to arrange that some student teachers from Livingstone can join the bus for a few days a week. This will not only benefit the students but also our volunteers, who can then work aside local people.

This year the first week feels much more relaxed than last time, that is probably because I know where everything is, how things work and know to expect that nothing runs smoothly or on time!! The countryside is green and thriving thanks to the recent rains and this week I have seen baby zebras, a huge water monitor lizard and a very cool looking chameleon, which local people are afraid of because it is associated with witchcraft!

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Apr 2010

Top Volcano Adventures

Posted by / in frontpage /

Do you know the correct way to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull? Well here it is: ‘ei?jafjatlajœ?k?tl? Got it now?
Iceland’s now infamous volcano may have caused worldwide disruption across the globe but these magnificent mountain fountains can be spectacular and many are there to be climbed!

1. Mount Kilimanjaro
Probably the most famous volcano of them all. The highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is in North Eastern Tanzania. Frequently referred to as the most beautiful mountain on earth you will never forget your time here. From steamy forest to the snowy summit you’ll experience 4 seasons in one week.

2. Cotopaxi
The worlds largest active volcano….get your ice picks ready for this one.
The volcano of Cotopaxi rises majestically above the Andean Cordilleras and is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador. With its perfect cone shape reaching the top of this volcano is a must for every budding mountaineer.

It can be done in a day so why not tag it on to some volunteer work in the Galapagos Islands or on our Ecuador Book Bus

3. Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya is often overlooked in favour of its more famous and higher neighbour, Kilimanjaro. This is a shame because it is a great trek with fewer trekkers and a better wilderness experience (and half the price!): it stands at a place where the great plains of East Africa give way to the southern margins of the Sahara. 100 miles south of Mt Kenya you’ll find all the Big Five living in Kenya’s national parks; 100 miles to the north and you’re in Samburu lands, pastoralists who tend camels, cattle and goats in a desert environment.

So there you have it…three cracking volcanoes to climb before you’re too old.

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Apr 2010

Spotlight on volunteering in Ecuador

Posted by / in South America /

You might say we know Ecuador pretty well….over a decade ago VentureCo Worldwide began in the back streets of Quito and now we have quite a collection of projects here…

We are proud to add to this our new Manta Ray project on the Pacific Coast…. one of our most exciting projects yet…..

Manta Rays are one of our ocean’s most charismatic residents. Their huge, easily recognisable shape inspires awe in divers and other water users, and no diver can ever forget the first time they saw a manta underwater. They appear as mysterious to divers as they do to science. Little is known about their lives, and their ghostly, enormous yet silent appearance along the world’s tropical and temperate reef systems have inspired generations of people. This project was developed to find out more about the migratory population of Manta birostris that visits the coast of Ecuador each summer.
For more details on this project check out the volunteer projects page

Don’t forget our other volunteer projects in Ecuador….
Our fantasticly remote Galapagos Conservation project would make a change from most peoples daily routine. Do something a bit less ordinary this year and grab a machete and get hacking!

The Book Bus in Ecuador also launched in 2010 to great success and we hope to continue this throughout the year. Climb aboard and become a story-teller!

Get involved in 2010 and give Ecuador a go…

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Mar 2010

Inca & Amazon 76 – Book Bus in Tena

Posted by / in South America /

The following entry is from Daisy Bard:

Monday March 15th 2010

Today we had the pleasure of attending a press conference at the site of Bajo Ongota (the first school we had visited, so this was our second time there). Amongst the dignitaries present were journalists, the minister of education, the mayor of Tena, a famous children´s writer and the British Ambassador to Ecuador. We worked with the kids for two hours (my group read and acted out parts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, drawing the grotesque characters and penning new culinary inventions), and put some of their art up around the classrooms. Next came the speeches and in typical Latin Amerian style, everyone had something to say! The award-winning writer had written something for the chidren which she read aloud, all about the Ventureco explorers and their treasure trove (the Book Bus) of smiles, fantasy and excitement. The main focus of the speeches (apart from thanking the communities for their support and welcome) seemed to be the fundamental importance of reading in education. Afterwards, each school we had visited presented a song or dance. They had all come to Bajo Ongota and there were ten performances, including a traditional dance with water pots, spears and plants as props. Finally, we all got up and had a little dancey with all of them, and refreshments commenced (a long-awaited treat in such a scorching and humid climate). Our lunch, which Bajo Ongota provided, was an exotic mix of whole barbecued fish, cocoa beans, yuca and palm hearts. After some football, clapping games and general frolicking, we were back in our beloved book bus (and Dave even had to eject some strangers who´d mistaken it for a public one).

Tuesday March 16th

Jacob´s birthday celebration; the whole group cross-dressed for the night. This would be a longer entry but it´s not for the tender eyes of our naive parents. Good fun was had by all, and little remembered the next morning!

Wednesday March 17th

We visited the school of Shandia, where they make Kallari chocolate; the plan was to have lunch and then go swimming in the river (an exciting cocktail of non-recommended activity), but the torrential rain was verging on a monsoon and quashed our ambitions. The lunch was nonetheless delicious, as was the company.

Thursday 18th March

We´ve officially been here a month. After the book bus session we headed off in a canoe to rural Ahuano, where a nice German-Ecuadorian couple looked after us, with their pet snake, whom we named Diego. The group took a trip to the little beach (again in their caneo), and most of them got stuck on a rock they´d insistently swum to despite the currents. They had to be ferried back. In the meantime, those less foolhardy descaled some freshly-caught fish, and became true Amazonians in the process.

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Mar 2010

Inca & Amazon 76 – Volcano Climb

Posted by / in South America /

The following entry is from Esmee Pappot:

Hola amigos,

Here is the second update from Quito.

We just finished our first week of Spanish class and it´s going really well.

So in the morning everybody is busy studying but in the afternoon we have time for our own, witch we use wisely, playing ultimate takedown in the park, bowling or laser quest.

We missed one day of school to prepare ourselves for the big climb. The volcano of Cotopaxi. We left on Friday and did a “little” hike to get used to the altitude. We walked 4 hours up to find ourselves in the middle of a cloud at the top. We arrived at our sleeping place in the dark and warmed ourselves up around the fire. Next we went to Cotopaxi, and tried all our equipment on and went for a little walk on the glacier. After that we just had to acclimatize and we went to bed really early! Around midnight, after a horrible night of sleep for the most of us, it was finally time to climb Cotopaxi.

Our first mission was to climb to the glacier, which everyone achieved. There we put on our crampons got our icepacks and started the big climb. We started with 14 people and 8 of us made it to top. A big achievement especially for inexperienced people like us. The other six went back halfway. The views we got were amazing, but walking to the top was cold, hard and the altitude made it al even worse. But everyone had a great time and got a great experience out of it.

Now we are back in Quito again. Learning Spanish and having fun. Preparing already for the book-bus project next view weeks. Witch everybody is really exited about!

That´s it for now. Ciao!

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Mar 2010

Inca & Amazon 76 -Entry 1

Posted by / in South America /

The following journal entry is from Millie Davies.

We spent our first day in South America having a wander around Quito; a beautiful city with friendly, interesting people. We do tend to stick out as a bunch of pasty gringos! Also visited the Old City this week, gained a knowledge of Quito and a bit of Ecuadorian culture. Checked out some clubs, witnessed some beautiful dancing skills from the likes of Glen “sexy” Gurney and Bernard Evans. Also visited Otovalo, a while from Quito and home to a huge market where we all invested in some uber colourful trousers and other neccesities! Checked out a local waterfall for an impromto plunge – too bad for those without a change of clothes. We visited a local shaman (witch doctor) where I had the pleasure of being the group guinea-pig! The ritual involved: rubbing candles all over self, a special egg being chosen for me, then the shaman spitting on table whilst chanting, spitting an alcoholic liquid all over me, rubbing my body with stinging nettles (ow), spraying yet more liquid over me again, then breathing fire over me….! Then knighted with a spear and cigarette smoke exhaled over me. Supposd to leave me refreshed and replenished next morning. Stayed in an idyillic hostal in the mountains which contributed to that effect. Next morning was a boat trip round a volcanic crator and a quick hike. Been up the cable cars to climatise ourselves for the Cotapaxi climb tomorrow! Summit is 6000 metres above sea level – wish us luck!
That´s it from Quito for now. Ciao!

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Jan 2010

Ecuador – Top 5 destinations

Posted by / in South America /

Lets take it down a level… are our top 5 for Ecuador

1: The Galapagos Islands! I know, I know…obvious… but it just has to be here….there is simply nowhere quite like it.
You can volunteer on a conservation project, embark on an 8 day wildlife cruise or hop from island to island mixing it with the locals! Where else can you see giant tortoises, birds with blue feet and an iguana in the colours of West Ham!

2: Tena – a backpacker favourite but with good reason…gateway to the Amazon Jungle..once you’ve seen this place…life will never be quite the same!
With unbeliveable white-water rafting, caving adventures and Sumaco volcano Tena offers adventure like nowhere else…(by the way this place has nothing to do with bladder weakness!)

3: Puerto Lopez – a beautifully laidback fishing village on the Pacific coast. We’ve been visiting here for over 20 years and hope to do so for another 20! Come between June and September and relax on the beach whilst watching humpback whales mate and dolphins surf!

4: Cotopaxi Volcano – The highest active volcano in the world……and you can climb it! It’s not the easiest climb but more than manageable for the average person…you’ll need ice-picks and crampons but the views at the top are…..well top! Just a short drive from Quito makes it a superb weekend activity!

5: Montanita – If you like to surf…go!…beautiful beaches, cheap food and friendly people!

That’s Ecuador…go..go now….and yes you can go with VentureCo Worldwide..

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Nov 2009

The Ecuador Book Bus has arrived!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

Quentin Blake’s marvellous artwork has now been applied to our Ecuador Book Bus in preparation for the launch in January.
The Bus will begin operations in the Amazon Jungle visiting schools and communities spreading the joy of reading and story-telling.

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