The Ray Mears Survival series has always captured my imagination and after our Spitsbergen trip I am ready to go and try something a bit more adventurous.

A boyhood wish list is now down to one thing Canoeing down the Amazon and seeing  the Ewan McGregor trip in Honduras I really fancied doing that and it is very close to fulfilling the wish list.

On talking to Simon Ward (fellow Dive and drinking buddy) I discovered he had the same wish and having viewed the Woodlore  website (http://www.raymears.com) we realised that these trips with Ray were possible.

After several phone calls to Woodlore we where told of two places available on a trip to Brunei in Feb 2005, Well it is not the Amazon but it is a lovely rainforest and we are going, and have only six months to train.

 

We quickly purchased the Ray Mears Sleep System which is a Hammock and Mosquito net in combined. 

We now had to find somewhere to use it, after studying my local Ordinance Survey Map we chose a secluded wood around 12 miles away. With rucksacks packed we set off using mainly a road route. It is not long before I find that my feet where not ready for such a trip and began blistering well so after many stops to powder feet we made it to our destination.

We managed to light our fire and cook a reasonable curry then into bed to try out our hammocks. 

We awoke after a reasonable night sleep to find my feet badly blistered, we cooked breakfast and limped to the nearest road to get picked up and taken home.

 

Not to be deterred two weeks later with new socks and army issue Jungle Boots and lots of powder we set out again and still managed to get blisters, but the fun of the trip did not put us off. We also start training on Cycles as we have several steep hills very close to us.

 

Two weeks later we are at it again this time no blisters and we have changed our route to mainly footpaths to miss most roads, I am now seeing the countryside in its glory and have discovered a pub which sells our favourite beer within 3 miles of our wood. 

 

 

We now are getting used to the routine and find that after several trips of dry, the heavens open just as we reach our destination and we have to put up our sleep system in an absolute down pour but with the practice we have had we soon have the basher up and are working in the dry. Now to light the fire, we have had two weeks of continuous rain and everything is soaking. We have a small amount of cotton wool and a spark stick so using birch bark taken from under fallen branches it takes me an hour to get the fire going.

After a nice curry we relax and sit chatting.

After several trips now we have prided ourselves that we leave no trace as to our camp and find it impossible to see where we have camped before.

The changing seasons are fantastic, we now walk down footpaths lined with wild fruit and hops and have a nice cross country route with large Puff Balls which tasted fantastic.

We receive some bad news, Rays partner Rachael is unwell and he has had to postpone our trip and the probable location will now be Belize and in October 2005. This is a bit of a blow but is totally understood and we plan to continue training but have decided to carry on the cycle training in the Spring. 

We soon lose the protection of the leaf canopy and the chill in the air around the evening fire is probably not what we will be getting in the Jungle but a nice hot coffee in the morning is nice we also get visitors for breakfast as my bacon pitas are becoming legendary and people will walk miles in the early morning for them 

 

 

Well with Christmas 2004 behind us and armed with a new rucksack and pans we look forward to our next trip but with several Scuba Diving trips we have to wait until the end of January.

 

 

 

The Spring arrives and so do the Bluebells

Shelly's New boots pinch a bit
 
Last year we came across a few Puffballs here so we spread their spores and Here is a nice Puffball for Dinner and Breakfast
I was not to sure whether these where Parasol Mushrooms which have an excellent nutty taste and can be fried, or the frequently confused Shaggy Parasol Mushroom which can cause digestive upset and skin rashes, So seeing as I did not have my book with me (first trip I have left it at home) we left them alone.
Slicing the Puffball ready to go in the dinner
Morning Shining through the trees and our last British woodland before we go. Our British training and practice comes to an end 

 

Well the Time at last had arrived, and we where off, But if I had only known what was in store for us.

 

We Arrive in Belize and fly out to Ambergris Caya with Tropic air for four days relaxing with a few dives and a book. 

 

At Houston we met Kelley to whom we became such great friends and spent so much fun with and to whom we can thank for demolishing any plans for reading or relaxing 

 

Here we are having a quiet beer just after arriving

The Dive organisation at Ramons Village was very professional

Our room at Ramons

 

GREAT BLUE HOLE
Typical Depth Range: 5-412 ft (2 to 126 meters) to unlimited (wall) 
Typical Current Conditions: None 
Typical Visibility: 100 ft (30 meters) 
Expertise Required: Advanced 

The origin of Blue Hole dates back to an ice age about 15,000 years ago. Enough sea water was frozen in glaciers during this time to lower sea level more than 350 ft, exposing the limestones of Lighthouse Reef. Huge subterranean caverns formed when fresh water flowed through the limestone deposits. Since then, the roof of the cavern has collapsed to form the sinkhole.

Made famous by a Jacques Cousteau`s 1970 Calypso expedition, Blue Hole is one of the best known dive sites in Belize. It is a circular, deep depression in the center of more than 75 sq miles of shallow, blue-green water. Its diameter at the rim measures 1,045 ft, whereas its maximum depth is 412 ft. Except for two narrow passages on the eastern and northern rims, Blue Hole is completely rimmed by living coral.

For the advanced diver this site is well worth the trip. You should plan to dive either the north or south side to a depth of 100-150 ft where the shallowest cave features are found. Begin your dive by snorkeling to the coral rim. This serves two purposes: first, it conserves air, and second, it provides an opportunity to get everyone making the dive together before you descend. Your no-decompression bottom time is short at the planned depths so it is best to snorkel toward the center to Blue Hole, just beyond the vertical wall, before descending.

A good way of maintaining your orientation during descent is to stay reasonably close to the wall. As you descend, you will notice that the wall crests between 40-55 ft and continues as a vertical cliff to a depth of 90-100 ft before receding at a 55 angle. The resulting overhang forms a cavern ceiling from which hang stalactites more than 3 ft in diameter and up to 20 ft in length. Also found adorning the ceiling are numerous dripstone pillows. More than 50 ft below the crest of the ceiling, the cave floor is riddled with a collection of fallen stalactites, muddy sediment and an opening to a cave system. Surprisingly, the dimly lit walls of the cavern are covered by a variety of filamentous green algae, boring sponges and encrusting worms. Little other marine life appears present in the cavern, but the walls above are covered with cornflake algae and isolated growths of gorgonians. Sharks and turtles may be found here, but their presence in Blue Hole is unpredictable. 

Marine life in Blue Hole and on the broad muddy sand slope that surrounds it is rather dismal, comparative to other sites in Belize. Algae and encrusting sponges mantle the walls to depth. Scattered growths of unhealthy stony coral rim the wall and occur scattered across the broad, muddy sand slope between the wall and shallow reefs. Most corals are heavily encrusted by red algae, hydroids and gorgonians. The only other conspicuous organisms here are shaving brush and mermaid`s fan algae.

The most varied and lush marine life is found on the coral reefs that rim the perimeter of Blue Hole. The reefs occur in only a few feet of water, making them excellent for snorkeling. Stands of elkhorn, club finger and shallow-water starlet corals, giant green anemones and arious urchins occupy the shallow lagoon habitat. 

 

We where kindly invited to join in at Brown Rice the Third's 60th Surprise Birthday Party and treated as part of the family of which I am very honoured and would like to express my deepest thanks to all concerned

We also met Sharon The Director of the National Zoo of Belize who has done so much work for the conservation of the rainforest and area

 

It is with some sadness that this chapter of our trip comes to an end and we move on now to meet Ray and the rest of the group.

With the onset of the internet and sites like this, the running of a course to the standard that Ray and Juha do, where every eventuality has been covered, has been made difficult to keep the course a surprise. With that in mind I am unable to give details of the structure or content of the course. 

So here are a collection of the pictures and a few thoughts

 

Adrian and I on the track from Monkey tail to Las Cuavas

 

 

We soon have our first camp up at Monkey tail river

 

Bed Making and very comfortable it was too, for our second camp at Monkey Tail

and Here is our bath

Having struggled for hours to dig the heart out of a palm we can now have something to eat

Some of the wild life where friendly too

The Mayan City at Caracol was amazing

Humming Birds at Pooks Hill Lodge

It pays to check your pile of fire wood before you pick up anything as this little chap was hiding there ( They also like boots )

 

           Simon with his weapon

I would like to thank Ray, Juha and the entire woodlore team for such a fantastic trip and wonderful experience and to all the lads who made it such a friendly experience