Experiencing Guatemala & Kenya in More Ways than One

Guatemala 2014 : À la découverte de la terre des Mayas

– un article par Élof Charlotte Raymond (26060) et Brenden Hogan (26566)

Le 17 février dernier, après un départ retardé de plus de 2 jours dû à la température et à la difficulté de trouver un autre vol accommodant 10 personnes, l’équipe Guatemala 2014 est finalement arrivée à Guatemala City vers 2030. Composé de dix membres, soit les Élofs Charlotte Raymond, Fréderic Thouin, Pierre-Alexandre Dufour, Julie Cho, Alex Pym, Brenden Hogan, Charles Grimsha, Kevin Bowen, Samuel Jimenez et Francis Hamel-Giroux, l’équipe est partie huit jours à l’aventure et à la découverte de ce pays ayant tant à offrir. Un transport nous attendait pour nous conduire vers notre première destination, Antigua, une superbe ville coloniale. Étant arrivé le soir, nous avons eu une belle surprise en se réveillant et réalisant que la ville était en fait entourée de volcans et de montagnes à perte de vue !

 

Le mardi matin, nous avons quitté l’hôtel à 0500 pour se diriger vers le volcan Pacaya et commencer la montée. Nous avons décidé de partir tôt pour profiter de la journée à Antigua et ne pas être pris dans la masse de touristes. La montée fût très agréable et nous avons beaucoup appris sur le volcan lui-même, mais aussi l’histoire derrière sa dernière éruption en mai 2010. Une fois rendu au sommet, la visibilité était mauvaise mais nous avons tout de même pu profiter de l’expérience. Nous avons aussi fait griller des guimauves dans une des diverses sources de chaleur toujours existante. En fin d’avant-midi, nous avons quitté le site du volcan et sommes allé dîner dans un petit café typiquement guatémaltèque d’Antigua. Nous avions ensuite le reste de la journée pour explorer cette magnifique ville remplie d’histoire. Une bonne nuit de sommeil nous attendaient avant de partir vers le nord, au Lac Atitlan.

After the team’s trek up Pacaya, the team departed for the small town of San Pedro La Laguna to explore one of the most beautiful parts of the country and experience authentic Guatemalan culture. The drive to San Pedro was incredible with breathtaking views of the landscape around the lake. The lake Atitlán, was described by Aldous Huxley as “the most beautiful lake in the world” and it is certainly deserving of this title. To get to San Pedro, the team had to take a boat across the lake from Panajachel. While in San Pedro, the team participated in many activities such as: a boat tour of the volcanoes surrounding the lake, visiting the local market in Panajachel, and kayaking. While kayaking around the lake, the team visited a remote village off the tourist path and was able to interact with Guatemalans. In addition to these activities, the team had the unique experience of a local family cooking us a traditional dinner in their home which was greatly enjoyed by all members and was given a tour of the local cathedral by the cathedral’s groundskeeper.

Après avoir passé deux jours incroyables dans le bain de la culture du Guatemala à San Pedro, il était maintenant temps de faire un long chemin vers le Nord-Est du pays, dans la jungle de Lanquin. Nous avons fait les dix heures séparant les deux villes à bord d’une navette qui nous a permis d’apprécier davantage les paysages nous entourant. Chaque tournant de la route nous engouffrait d’une vue les plus spectaculaires les unes que les autres. Une fois arrivé à destination, nous étions tous très surpris et heureux de voir que notre hôtel était sans mur et donnait littéralement sur la jungle elle-même. Nous étions tous fatigués du trajet et un sommeil bien mérité était de mise. Le jour suivant fût assurément un coup de cœur de tous. Nous avons débuté avec un transport typique, soit debout dans la boîte d’un camion, pour se rendre au parc national de Semuc Champey. Nous sommes ensuite partis à la découverte d’une grotte avec uniquement une chandelle pour nous éclairer. L’équipe a pu nager, grimper et même sauter à l’intérieur de la grotte. Nous avons ensuite fait diverses activités aquatiques, incluant se lancer d’un pont de plus de 25 pieds. Une fois le dîner terminé, un trekking très abrupte nous attendait, afin d’aller au point le plus haut du site pour avoir une vue panoramique des piscines, chutes naturelles, ainsi que des montagnes de la région. Puis, une fois redescendu, nous avons finalement pu se reposer et plonger dans les piscines et apprécier le soleil du Guatemala. Ce voyage fut indéniablement une ouverture unique sur le monde et une opportunité d’en apprendre davantage sur ce qui ce passe en dehors du Canada.

This expedition, but also this amazing opportunity would not have been possible without the generous donation from the RMC Foundation. It is because of them that we were able to experience and visit this wonderful part of the world. The team would also like to thank Elizabeth Gibson and Craig Palmer of the PSP, Club Supervisor Capt Labonté, and Club President OCdt Stéphanie Paquette for their part in this journey and for making this expedition a success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Guatemala Expedition – Short Video

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Kenya 2014: Mission Accomplished

– an article by OCdt (25981) Megan Couto

This past Monday, 24 Feb, nine RMC Officer and Naval Cadets returned from Nairobi, Kenya where they spent their reading week as part of RMC’s Expedition Club. The main portion of the expedition was a four-day traverse of Point Lenana, Mount Kenya’s third highest peak, and the highest point on the mountain attainable without a technical climb. The team members are: IC 26020 OCdt Michael Cole, 2IC 26500 NCdt Richard Barnes, 26821 OCdt Liam Bell, 26147 OCdt Julien Landry, 26193 OCdt Vanessa Banks, 27002 OCdt Josh Hewitt, 25981 OCdt Megan Couto, 26714 OCdt Vincent Sauvé, and 26167 OCdt Boris Trudel.

The team departed from Toronto’s Pearson International on Friday, February 14th and their journey included a layover at London’s Heathrow Airport. Due to time differences, the team didn’t arrive in Nairobi until Sunday evening. From the airport, the team was driven to Windsor Park, a very nice neighbourhood in Kenya where the Bell family (parents of OCdt Liam Bell) reside. The team spent the remainder of the evening unpacking and getting accustomed to the 8 hour time difference between Kingston and Nairobi

The morning of day two, the team slept off the last of their traveller’s exhaustion and some elected to take a walk around the Windsor Park Golf and Country club, which was a short ways away from the Bell residence. In the afternoon, the team went to the local Nakumatt to purchase food, gas for the stoves, and other supplies they would need for the trek, which was planned for only two days later. Transport throughout was provided by a friend of OCdt Hewitt, James. The team also took this opportunity to exchange their money into Kenyan shillings (1CAD=78Ksh), and withdraw enough money to cover the $255 USD park fee for the mountain. In the evening, the team partook in a fierce euchre tournament (the game quickly became the team’s favourite).

Day Three was the team’s last day to become accustomed to the altitude in the city of Nairobi before their trek on the mountain. The city is already more than 1500m above sea level, and spending a few days here gave the team a chance to become comfortable here. The team visited a giraffe centre, where for a small entry fee, you could feed the giraffes small pellets of food. Many of the team members “kissed” a giraffe that day by holding the pellets in the lips and allowing the giraffes to lick them. On day three was also the liaison with the guiding company and the team’s first meeting with their guide, Joseph.

Day Four started with a 200km ride out to the park gate where the team would begin their climb. After a bit of difficulty with the Matatu (Kenyan minibus) and one new radiator later, the team made it to the gate a little behind schedule. Luckily this day had the easiest leg scheduled, and they only walked 10km to the first camp. The weather was mostly cooperative with a bit of rain, but at the low altitude the team didn’t mind. The trail crossed the equator that day, which was an important milestone for some.

Day Five was the second longest leg of the hike, with the team travelling 14km over hilly terrain. The weather was less than optimal at times, with moderate rain in the afternoon. As the altitude increased and temperatures dropped, many members of the team became very cold but soldiered on to Camp Shipton, where the team pitched tents for the night.

Day Six was by far the longest and most difficult day of the trek. It began at 0200 with the team leaving for the summit, attempting to make it there before sunrise. Many people experienced some form of altitude sickness on this day. In the words of OCdt Trudel: “The views along the hike were breathtaking, yet it felt like a slap in the face from Mother Nature while the effects of altitude seemed to be redefining what physical fitness meant at every turn.” The team successfully reached the summit and took photos with OCdt Josh Hewitt donning 11 squadron’s beaver mascot costume in honour of them raising the most money for the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldier’s Initiative. The already long day finished with a 13 km hike to the Met Station Lodge where the team camped for the night.

Day seven was the last day of the trek, with only a 10km hike downhill to the park gate. After a brief setback due to a long buffalo along the trail, the team made it to the gate and piled into the matatu to return to Nairobi, exhausted but happy.

Day eight was the second last day in Kenya. The team took advantage of the remaining time to visit Nairobi National Park. We accompanied Mr. Jamie Bell (father to OCdt Liam Bell) and his colleagues including Col. B. Southern (Defence Attaché) to an early morning safari in the park. That evening the team enjoyed a wonderful all you can eat meat dinner at the famous restaurant: The Carnivore.

Day Nine was the team’s final day in Kenya. In the morning, some of the team members paid a visit to the country club’s pool and relaxed in the sun. After a home cooked lunch, the team travelled to an orphanage run by OCdt Josh Hewitt’s friend James of the New Hope Church. Located in one of Nairobi’s slums, the orphanage is home to about 30 boys and girls of all ages. The team brought some cooking supplies for the orphanage and after a small tour spent the afternoon playing games with the children. This was one of the best parts of the team’s trip to Kenya. In OCdt Vanessa Bank’s words: “One of our most powerful experiences was visiting the slums; all the homes were made out of scrap tin and there were streams of garbage running through the streets – and yet all the children greeted us excitedly and one wave could put a smile on anyone’s face.”

The team was sad to leave Kenya and arrive back in Canada on Monday afternoon. Overall, the opportunity of taking part in an expedition was exceptional. For many, this was their first trip to Africa and experiencing another culture was truly eye opening. Expedition team members had a specific role to play in the planning of the trip and this provided him or her with an opportunity to exercise their leadership. Particularly for the IC and 2IC of the trip, leading the expedition was another chance for them to develop their organizational skills and resourcefulness, essential to their future success in their careers.

The Kenya Expedition Club team would like to extend a heartfelt thanks for all those who helped the trip come together on the ground in Kenya, as well as the RMC Foundation for their support of trip of this kind. We hope that all who travelled this reading week returned safely and had a good experience as we did.

To the Ends of the Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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