Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The first 2009 GAP Team prepares for Departure!

Preparations have been well underway for the past 4 months to get everything ready for the forth coming GAP teams departing in the New Year. The first group to leave for the sunnier climes of Africa are the Tanzania Team. Heading out to Babati near Lake Manyara the group will spend 6 weeks living and working with the community to build 2 much needed classrooms.

The group has donated between them a staggering £7650 to make the project possible. After their hard work they will then head off on testing, adrenaline filled and rewarding 6 week expedition to discover even more of what Africa has to offer.

The team will be sending updates and videos of their progress and you can follow their progress right here in the spare room!

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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Missing the taste of Africa?

Everyone who has taken part on Quest's Southern Africa Expedition will have had their favourite snakes, nibbles and bites!  Whether it's Ms H.S. Balls' Chutney, Nik Naks, Lunch Bars, Biltong or Tastic Rice (perfect every time!) you just cannot find it over here.  

There are specialist shops but they are few and far between.  So why not check out jumbowholesale.co.uk.  It has all your favourites and you can buy in bulk for those Nik Nak binges!  It even sells Springbok shirts, although I think I'll pass on one of those.

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Merry Questmas from all of us

and all the best for 2009!

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Monday, 22 December 2008

What says Xmas more than a pooing man?!

El Caganer, a rather strange figure, has been a characteristic of Nativity scenes all over Catalonia for many years. No self- respecting Catalan Bethlehem scene would be complete without him! Nowadays he comes in many shapes and forms, from monks to shepherds, Barcelona or Madrid football players to famous film stars - all performing the exact same action - defecating. That's right! They are actually squatting down, with their trousers round their knees, having a bowel movement!

Although an integral and essential part of the Nativity scene, this colourful character is often difficult to spot. He is usually to be found in an ''outlying'' area - behind a suitably placed bush, for example - and not actually centre stage with the infant Jesus himself!

Los Caganers first began to make an appearance in Nativity scenes in Catalonia in the late seventeenth century, but didn't really achieve widespread popularity until the nineteenth century. Nowadays they are as important a character as Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus himself. Look carefully at any Nativity scene in Catalonia and you will always find him lurking in the background, replete with the traditional red Catalan hat.

So what do they actually stand for? Believe it or not, the widely-accepted answer to that question is really a very simple one. Their ''fertilizer'' enriches the earth around them, thus promising a buena cosecha (a good harvest) during the forthcoming year. This translates into a general good omen for the future. Upon purchasing a Caganer, are told that owning him will bring good luck and prosperity. One thing is certain, they do say much about the Catalan sense of humour.

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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Ancient City Unearthed in Peru

The ruins of an entire city have been discovered in northern Peru, researchers say.  Archaeologists say the find could provide the missing link between the ancient cultures of the Wari people and the earlier Moche civilisation.

The site, near the Pacific coastal city of Chiclayo, probably dates to the Wari culture which ruled the Andes of modern Peru between the 7th and 12th Century.  The once buried city showed evidence of human sacrifice. The remains of the victims were thrown over the nearby cliff, Cesar Soriano, the chief archaeologist on the project, told the Andina news agency.

Ceramics, clothing, and the well-preserved remains of a young woman were also discovered, he said. "It provides the missing link because it explains how the Wari people allowed for the continuation of culture after the Moche [died out about 600 AD]," Cesar Soriano was quoted by Reuters as saying. Mr Soriano said the find provides the first evidence of Wari culture, which was based in the south of the country, at the northern site.
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Intern Opportunities at Quest Overseas

If you're looking for ways to get into the volunteering, expedition or travel industry, Quest Overseas may be able to help. We have regular opportunities for suitable candidates to join our team in our office in Hove as an intern involved either in the operational or marketing side of our organisation (or even both). Working here is a lot of fun and our interns do get a lot of valuable experience from their time with us - in fact, most of our current staff were offered jobs on the back of having internships with us.

We ask you to commit to at least 4 months, but ideally six months (either full or part time) and would cover all reasonable travel expenses. There is an opening for an intern position from January 2009, ideally for someone with interest and background in marketing.

If you're interested or would like to find more, please call us or send an email to simon@questoverseas.com
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Volunteering on the cheap

Volunteering can be an expensive business, travelling to the other side of the world and supporting a project in a developing nation does have its cost. We at Quest do our best to justify every penny that is spent on our volunteer projects and you will have total transparency if you go away with us.

Of course it's not in everyone's budget, but don't assume that means you can't do anything worthwhile. There are hundreds of opportunities closer to home where you are supporting local communities and environments without having to spend much at all. The website Help Exchange has lists and lists of projects in the UK and Europe, where you can volunteer for any time from a week to a year.

We'd love you to go away with us, but more important we want you to just DO SOMETHING!

Visit the Help Exchange website here

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Friday, 12 December 2008

Royal Geographical Society

Geo-blogging for Gap Projects and Expeditions
Royal Geographical Society with IBG, London

Wednesday 28 January 2009 - morning Wednesday 28 January 2009 - afternoon
A practical half day workshop that will equip you with all the skills you need to create a multimedia blog about your project or expedition.

The course is ideal if you are looking to:
· Create a multimedia record of your Gap Year / expedition
· Involve family, friends and sponsors in your project or expedition
· Have an online project or expedition CV for future funders
· Use your Gap Year / expedition as an educational opportunity and share it with pupils and teachers at your present/former school
Cost: £55 for a half day course.Details: T 020 7591 3030 E go@rgs.org W www.rgs.org/GOseminars
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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Kung Fu Squirrel?!

Yes a British photographer David Slator has the evidence.  The pictures are real life ground squirrels from Etosha National Park in Namibia.  They apparently found the camera very interesting and have been shot play fighting with each other.

What next I wonder, maybe capybara's performing Capoeira?

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Grim Challenge no trouble for Quest Boys

Well done guys, despite waiting for the course organisers to break the ice on the water with sledgehammers and Land Rovers (!), Simon, Jonjon and Andy weren't fased and stormed through the 8 mile circuit last Sunday morning, finishing in a respectable 1144th, 1145th and 1146th! More importantly though, two children in Peru and one in Malawi will now have their primary school fees covered thanks to the generous efforts of our friends and family - thank you all!
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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Update from our Peru Construction Project

Here's a brief update on the work the guys in Villa Maria are getting up to. Zoe, Trevor and Steph are working away to provide better living conditions for a family in the shanty town, just on the outskirts of Lima, keep up the good work guys.

Working on this construction project has also given them the chance to meet some of the families in the community and learn about their realities. One thing they have relayed back to us from this experience is the story of one child in particular, and they have asked us to pass on this message:

A young lad of three years in the school has a tumor, the size of a tennis ball, that is growing rapidly. He requires an operation to have it removed otherwise he will die. The operation costs 500 pounds but his family have no money to fund his operation. We thought of setting up a just giving account so that our family and friends could, if you wanted to make a small donation of just 2 pound. If 250 people donated, this young lad would have a chance at life.

Please use the link to donate a minimum fee of just 2 pound as this could make a small lad and his family's Christmas.


The money donated goes straight to Quest overseas, and they will ensure the funds go directly to Jose.

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Friday, 28 November 2008

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008

If you're in the London area this weekend and are looking for some ideas for attractions then why not check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum.

The exhibition show cases the very best nature photographs from the top professional and amateur photographers in the world. It costs just £7 and is well worth it. There's also the museum to explore, and no visit is complete without checking out the dinosaurs and the blue whale!

To check out some of this year's winners click here

My personal favourite was this tussle between snake and tree frog........brilliant!

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Monday, 24 November 2008

Quest boys take on The Grim Challenge

On 7th December 2008, three fit young men from Brighton will take on all that Mother Nature can throw at them when they run the Grim Challenge in Aldershot.

8 miles of uncompromising mud, ditches, water filled ravines, cargo netting and the biting December chill. Jon, Simon and Andy are running to raise as much money as possible to send children from our projects in Malawi and Peru to School.

£300 – is enough to pay for 5years of secondary education for an orphaned child in the Pen Sulo district in Malawi.

£175 – is enough to pay for 1 year of school for a disadvantage child in the one of the largest shanty towns on the planet in Peru.

To check out how they are doing and to make a donation please visit their just giving page:

Just Giving Grim Quest Page

You can also send in cheques made payable to The Quest Overseas Charitable Trust, 15a Cambridge Grove, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 3ED.

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Friday, 21 November 2008

Andy's guide to rucksacs

Probably the most important purchase before you go travelling.  Your rucksack will be your home for the time you are away so getting one that is comfortable, durable, easy to pack and the correct size is key.  If you buy wisely and look after your rucksack it should serve you well for many years.

Don't rush into buying a rucksack; first ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I going to be doing a lot of walking with heavy loads? - If yes then look for a bag with excellent back support systems and padded shoulder and waist straps.  Try on the bag with a heavy load.  There are now bags designed specifically for women that take into account higher hips and shorter backs.
2. How large does it need to be? - If you are looking for a day bag for a few nights in the hills walking then up to 50 litres will be sufficient.  If planning to travel for 4 weeks or more you will need between 65 - 80litres.  Remember the bigger your bag the more you will take!
3. Does it have several compartments, easy openings? - Makes it easier to pack and unpack, saves having to empty and repack every time you reach your new destination.
4. Are the zips and straps durable hard wearing? - Remember this is one piece of kit you are going to be using on a daily basis.  If you plan to travel a lot then get something tough.  Generally the more you spend the better quality you will get.  Shop on-line to get discounts and always ask in camping shops for a discount if you are a volunteer, doing DofE or you’re a student.
5. Does it come with a rain cover and or flight bag? - Rain covers keep the bag dry in poor weather, and thus lighter.  They can also prevent dust if on the roof of a bus.  Dust is a zips worst enemy!
6. Does it have hidden pockets, water pouches? - Hidden pockets are excellent for keeping photocopies of important documents and spare medication.  If you have a platypus you will need a pouch to hold it and a hole for the tube.
Some excellent rucksacks to take a look at are:

Lowe Alpine TFX tundra 65+15l - £119.99
Lowe Alpine TFX ridge ladies fit 65+15l - £99.99
Berghouse C7 1series 65+10 - £99.99
Berghouse C7 1series ladies fit 65+10 - £99.99
The North Face Primero 70l - £179.99

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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

It's official - gap years make you smarter!

Recent research has shown that people who take a year out before university, on average score a first year university grade 2.3% higher than those who come straight from school. That may not sound like much, but if it's the difference between a 2.1 and a 1st (or a pass and a fail), I'm sure we would all care!

Now whether this is because we actually become cleverer as a result of our gap year, or if it's just because we've got some of the post school madness out of our systems before we've actually started our degree, it can only be a good thing.

In any case, if you have an university interview coming up and they ask you to justify your decision to defer entry, you now have a statistic to back it up!

See the full article on this study here
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Domino Record Topples

It was a true team effort as 85 people from 13 countries came together to topple the world record for not 1 but 10 previous world records. There have been attempts in the past, one ending with a sparrow being shot, later to be recognised as protected (Netherlands 2005). The bird managed to knock over 23,000 dominoes and still holds the record for a bird.

4.3 million dominoes were set and then pushed over in Netherlands this weekend.

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Monday, 17 November 2008

Ever wanted to see a whale shark poo?

If the answer is yes then you're in luck - the BBC has just released the first footage ever filmed of such a monumental event. Whalesharks are the biggest fish in the sea - growing up to 12m in length and (thankfully) only eating plankton, krill and other tiny sea dwellers.

If you want to see a whaleshark yourself, come away on our African Expedition; our dive site in Mozambique is well known for visits from these magnificent creatures and you may be lucky enough to get the chance to dive or snorkel alongside one. You may not be lucky enough to see one poo though....so check out:

BBC video

Quest Overseas has in the past been involved in photographing whalesharks for the eOcean database. The eOcean project aims to provide good quality data from earth and environmental sciences for future use in global change studies, research projects, and operational services such as portals, search engines and library catalogs.


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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Elephants are a sheep’s best friend

Yes an elephant in South Africa is now best friends with a sheep! The orphaned elephant Themba was introduced to Albert the sheep. To start with Themba teased Albert but now they play and cuddle. They will stay together for another 18months before Themba is released when he turns 2 years old.

This is not the first time that different species have been used to comfort and mother abandoned offspring. In fact it also happens naturally in the wild.

To learn more about altruism in nature check out Richard Dawkins 'Selfish Gene', available from all good bookshops and on line stores.

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Car Sharing: Risk Assesment

On his travels across the globe, photographer Robert Neumiller spotted these locals doing “their bit” to help protect the environment:
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Monday, 10 November 2008

Bolivia's Salt Flats a potential gold mine?

Is it just a matter of a few years before we won't be able to take such lovely pictures in all their natural beauty??

Bolivia's immense salt flats are one of the world's largest sources of lithium deposits, and lithium is used to power electric cars. Supplies are dwindling throughout the world and it currently isn't being extracted from the Salt Flats, mainly because Bolivia is reluctant to allow foreign investors to come in and profit from its exploitation. However, there are plans in the pipeline for the Bolivian government to build their own extraction plant, with projections to be producing a third of the world's lithium by 2012.

This is fantastic news in that Bolivia may now have an resource which will help to alleviate the extreme poverty found throughout their country, and it gives the world an option to be much less reliant on fossil fuels.

But let's hope we can still continue to enjoy this fantastic landscape without factories popping up all over the place - it's never simple...

See an article from the BBC on this topic here
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Andy's guide to roll mats

Roll mats play two important roles. They insulate you in cold conditions and make for a more comfortable night’s sleep. There are hundreds on offer and all are different shapes, sizes and materials. So what’s right for you, the cheap and cheerful classic foam role mat or a top of the range thermarest? Here’s a quick guide to what's out there.

1. Foam Roll mat

Price £2.95 - £9

Extremely cheap and durable these mats provide adequate insulation but very little comfort. You will feel every stone and twig through one of these bad boys. Another disadvantage is the size, as such they are often attached to the outside of rucksacks. This often means that they become prematurely worn and torn.

2. Inflatable (airbeds and lillo’s)

Price £1.99 - £22.99

The predecessor of the inflatable camping mat everyone must have mucked about with one of these on family holidays. Beats lying on the floor but have a tendency to push up unevenly and are extremely liable to burst. Airbeds are more comfortable and with a texture finished they are less likely to stick to your face. However they tend to be extremely heavy and as such are not suitable for backpacking or trekking.

3. Inflatable (thermarest)

Generic and own brands - Price £17.50 - £45.00

Thermarests - Price £29.99 - £139.99 for the XL Dreamtime

There are loads of cheaper makes and many camping stores now produce their own versions of this favorite. The more you pay the smaller your mat will pack down and the lighter it will be. Thermarest have also just introduced tougher materials to avoid dreaded leaks which is the mats biggest downfall. Before buying think about what you will use your mat for. If you are planning on lots of trekking then go for something lightweight. If you’re looking for something extremely comfortable then go for something wide, long and thick. A closed cell foam formation will give you the best protection in cold conditions as well as making the mat less liable to holes.

If you speak to anyone who has owned a thermarest or equivalent they will never go back to a foam roll mat. If you do buy one treat it carefully to avoid punctures, also it's best to store inflatable mats not in their compression sacks as this can compress their inner padding, decreasing their lifespan.



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Friday, 7 November 2008

Introducing Monifa: Baby Pygmy Hippo

Conservationists have been celebrating the birth of a rare pygmy hippopotamus at Australia's Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

There are less than 3,000 of the endangered animals left in the wild, and zoo keepers say every hippo born is "extremely important" for the species' survival.
Monifa, who weighs 13 pounds (six kilos) and is the size of a puppy, was born after a breech delivery.

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Thursday, 6 November 2008


That's right, Movember has come round again, so its time for all you men to start growing a killer handlebar, dali, fu manchu, imperial, toothbrush or even the walrus.

So whats it all about?  Well it was set up to raise awareness and money for mens health issues.  Myself and Simon have taken up the challenge here in the office and will be posting our results on the blog at the end of the month.

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Kenyan Baby Obama's

Mothers in Kenya have marked Barack Obama's historic win in the US presidential elections by naming their newborns after him and his wife.

More than half of the babies born in a Kisumu Hospital on the day after the election were named either Barack or Michelle Obama.  Kisumu is close to the village where Mr Obama's father was born and raised and Mr Obama is a local hero.

Out of 15 babies born in the New Nyanza Provincial Hospital in the western city of Kisumu on Wednesday, five boys were named Barack Obama and three girls were called Michelle.  Pamela Adhiambo, who gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl - on the night after the elections, even named them Barack and Michelle!

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Apologies, Backstreet never left

I know that I am going to regret this! In 2000 I and the rest of the team thought it be a good idea to try and impress the locals with a Boy Band dance. The sad thing is at the time we thought we were really good.

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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Oooooooooh! Aaaaaaaah!

The English, among other talents, are adept at nurturing their grudges. How else does one explain the enduring enmity toward Guy Fawkes, a conspirator in a plot to blow up Parliament in 1605? Some four centuries after Fawkes was caught, tortured and executed for his role in a scheme that never came to fruition, Britons still celebrate his demise each Nov. 5 by burning his likeness in effigy and setting fireworks ablaze.

Politics aside (!) - If you are attending a fireworks display or having a few of your own then please BE SAFE and have fun too!

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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Peru's Andean Songbird

Yma Sumac, the suprano known as the Peruvian Songbird for her vast vocal range, has died at the age of 86.

Famed for her modern versions of South American folk music, Sumac died of colon cancer in Los Angeles, where she had lived for 60 years, an aide said.  Yma Sumac stunned audiences with her soaring, warbling voice which spanned more than four octaves.

With her costumes giving her the appearance of an Inca princess, she was a technicolour musical fantasy,  The singer played heavily on her Andean roots, claiming to be descended from the Inca Emperor Atahualpa.
And in the land of her birth, glowing press tributes have been paid to the only Peruvian to have been written into Hollywood's Walk of Fame.  Born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo in Cajamarca, northern Peru, she changed her name to Yma Sumac - which means "How Pretty" in Peru's indigenous Quechua language.

She stunned audiences from Europe to Japan, starred in Broadway musicals and played exotic roles in several Hollywood films, including The Secret of the Inca alongside Charlton Heston.
Her fame faded in the 1960s, but was revived in the 1990s through its use in the cult Coen Brothers' film The Big Lebowski, which brought her music to new fans.

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Monday, 3 November 2008

Obama Musical opened Yesterday

This weekend saw the opening of 'Obama the musical' in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Kenya's love for Obama stems from his Kenyan father and this can be seen and heard in the form of chants, songs and t-shirts. Even a beer has been named after him!

The musical is 'hotly awaited' and after much discussion over who should play the villain, John McCain was chosen. I must make clear that McCain will not be played by himself. The musical is set to be a huge success and a sequel has not been ruled out. I guess that will depend on what happens on election night!

More on Obama the musical
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Photos of Summer Villa Maria Team

A selection of photos from the construction project in Lima earlier this year, the guys in Peru definitely know how to pull on the heart strings...! Great work though.

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Friday, 31 October 2008

Andy's guide to water purification

When travelling overseas clean safe drinking water is always a problem. One solution is to buy bottled water, but on average it will cost you $1 a litre and this can add up. There is also the environmental cost in buying plastic bottles that are rarely recycled in less developed countries that lack the infrastructure. So what are the options?

1. Iodine
This is the cheapest and most effective option and is available at camping stores and on the web in tablet or liquid form. It kills all known parasites including giardia. Simply add the correct amount, shake and leave for 15-30mins depending on the product. The downside is the taste, however you can also buy neutralisation tablets. Long term exposure to iodine is also not recommended. Prices from £3.99 75 - 200litres

2. Chlorine
As readily available as iodine, but not effective against giardia. However, it is slightly more palatable, tastes a little like swimming pool. Prices from £3.99 - 70litres (neutraliser @ £3)

3. Filters
These come in all shapes and sizes from pocket to backpack size. Simply its a pump and filter, so a bit of effort on your part is needed. They also need regualar cleaning and replacement filters fitting depending on how much you use it. They are expensive around £80 and fairly bulky. However on the plus side they can purify 1000's of litres of water.

One neat solution is a filter inside your water bottle. They cost around £40 and will purify 350litres of water.

4. SteriPEN
These have been on the market for a few years now but are not well known. They use UV light to kill bugs and can purify a litre of water in just 1.5minutes. They are also pocket sized but do require a fair bit of battery power. However combined with a solar charger it's a winning combination. Expect to pay £70-85 depending on the model, 4 x AA batteries = 20 - 30litres water.

5. Boil
Yes the cheapest option is to simply boil your water. The argument on how long this needs to be done for is sure to go on for years to come. Most guides will tell you to bring to a rolling boil for 3minutes, however new evidence suggests that it just needs to reach a rolling boil to be safe to drink. I would always air on the side of caution and boil mine for 3 minutes or more. A clean sarong can be used to filter larger particals.

So what's right for you? Think about how long you will be away. If you are only going for a short period go for iodine, you will soon get used to the taste. If you are set on travelling for a long period or multiple trips it might be worth investing in a filter or steriPEN.


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How to climb Everest without leaving the UK

Who says pub landlords do nothing but drink beer, eat crisps and moan about things?! Well done to ex-Quest volunteer turned pub landlord Ben Ambridge for raising funds to help the local Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance service and the children's cancer charity CLIC Sargent. How are they going to do this? By climbing their local peak the Golden Cap 47 times - equalling the height of Everest!

Don't forget the oxygen lads, or the rations (pork scratchings?) and look out for avalanches!

See an article on their challenge here

Sponsor them via their justgiving sites for CLIC Sargent and the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance

To visit the intrepid explorers, pop into The Anchor Inn at Seatown, the big push is taking place next March...

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Mystery GIANT Lego Man...

Mystery surrounds the appearance of a giant Lego man on the beach here in Brighton.  

The 6ft-tall (1.8m) red, green and yellow figure has the slogan "No Real Than You Are" painted on the front and some words written in Dutch.

A Brighton resident said he had spotted the figure in the water while walking to work this week.  It is not known if the figure washed ashore or was carried to the seafront. A Lego man with the same slogan appeared on a Dutch beach last year.  Spooky!  Watch out for giant legomen at beaches near you!

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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Is gas Mozambique's answer to high fuel prices?

BP announced record fuel profits of £6.4 billion over the last 1/4, but fuel prices are still at a record high in the UK. In Mozambique and the rest of Southern Africa fuel as nearly doubled over the last 1.5years from 6 South African Rand/litre to over R10/litre. The result has been increases in food, transport and living costs which has also effected the tourism sector.

Mozambique struck gold with their offshore gas supplies in the Pande and Temane fields. A recent Reuters report estimated reserves at 3.6 trillion cubic feet, and it looks like Mozambique is going to take advantage of this resource by not just becoming a world supplier of natural gas but running it's local buses on it as well!

Mozambique has ordered gas powered public transport from china and as a result hopes to reduce its dependence on imported fuel. Here in Brighton chips are used instead of natural gas. The Lemon bus company are running their buses on chip fat from local cafes and restaurants. Now I know why I feel a craving for chips when I walk to work!

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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Is there something in the water?

A few out takes from the volunteer training weekend just gone......

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Dying to see an elephant on your Gap Year?

The first officially sanctioned sale of ivory in southern Africa for almost a decade opens on Tuesday.  Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe will auction more than 100 tonnes of ivory from stockpiles to buyers from China and Japan.

Data shows that poaching figures dropped after the last official sale, but fears remain that this move will encourage illegal poachers to increase poaching.  The ivory trade was banned globally in 1989 because poaching was decimating elephant populations. This and the 1999 sale are the only exceptions.  Last week, the internet site eBay banned virtually all products containing ivory after lobbying from animal welfare groups.

Will this decision prevent or encourage the poachers? Let's hope the elephant populations continue to expand and live naturally all across Africa despite the politics of ivory trade.

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Monday, 27 October 2008

Kunal Patel, Gap Year Guru

Thanks to a rather nasty facebook message from my good friend Kunal I have decided that if anyone wishes to send in photos or text about time spent with Quest Overseas or anything intresting they might be doing,I will feature them on the site. So as demanded for my angry little friend in Vanuatu, your ugly mug on the site.
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Gap Year Salsa Lesson

This weekend saw 33 young people descend on Dulwich Scout centre in South West London for 2 days of preparation for their travels to all parts of South America. The highlight of the weekend was the salsa lesson, instructed by our very own Jon Jon Cassidy, the master.......

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Friday, 24 October 2008

Andy's Gap Year

I was unusually organised at school, at 17 I signed up to spend 3 months in Madagascar in my Gap Year.  It was to be a full year and a half until I actually stepped onto the plane to start my adventure which was to dictate the next 5 years of my life.

I was always interested to travel but until I was 18 had never donned a backpack in my life.  My gap year started with a short stint at Tesco before heading off round Europe with 5 mates from school.  A whirlwind tour lead me to marvel at 10ft high paintings in the Louver, Bungee jumping in Grenoble, eating as much as you can eat pizza outside the leaning tower of Pisa, spending a day and a half on a boat, raving it up on the island of Ios, buying a McDonalds in Switzerland, eating bockwurst and visiting the zoo in Germany and finishing in Amsterdam before flying home courtesy of Stelios.

I returned home to the harsh reality of finding £5000 to pay for my trip to Madagascar.  So I began working night shifts in a stationary warehouse and promotions work in Gatwick airport.  It was a hard 7 months work, lots of injections, buying and borrowing equipment, sorting out malaria meds and researching the project before I was off.

I touched down on the dirty tarmac at Antannarivo.  On the second day it was my 19th Birthday, spent drinking three horses larger.  Next day I spent hanging my head out the window as we drove across the country, ending the day not only dehydrated but sunburnt as well.  Not the best way to acclimatise!  After a few days spent in Tulear in the South West of the country the group headed out to the dry spiny forests to start a detailed survey of the area.  I was to spend the next 8 weeks sleeping on the floor with hairy catapillers, eating beans and rice, catching reptiles with my bare hands and GPSing the unmapped landscape.

My best memory was playing football against the local team.  The whole village turned out to watch, we played on a solid mud pitch, the ball was like a ping pong ball and the referee had an AK47 slung round his shoulder!

It was the time of my life and I was hooked.  I returned in the knowledge that I wanted to return to Madagascar one day but more so wanted to discover what else was out there?  It was to be two years later until I ventured out again this time with Quest Overseas to Bolivia as a volunteer, from their to Peru and Brazil before returning as an intern in the UK office.  As an assistant leader with Quest Overseas in 2007 I worked in Tanzania, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana, before heading off to Central America to continue backpacking.  After a three month trip on local buses from Mexico City to Panama City and everywhere in between I headed off to work for Quest on an eight month stint in Africa.

Andy Deaville – Africa Operations Manager

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

Peruvian bid for next Olympics?

London has talked about simplifying the opening ceremony for 2012, I think they could get some tips from our children's project here in Peru! Joking aside though, what a fantastic way to combine sport and teaching kids about other countries - well done guys!

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Africa Credit Crunch

We have been hit hard by the credit crunch over here, but you may think that in Africa the effect has been even bigger. It seems that this is not the case.

This is due smaller economies in Africa which are affected less than huge economies such as the US and Britain and that banks in Africa have been very conservative with their lending unlike over here where recently you could get a mortgage five times larger than your salary. Davindar Sikand, managing director of Aureos Africa Fund, says that "most financial institutions are not directly impacted".

So is it all roses in Africa? The answer is no, it may well be the case that the price of eggs have gone up and you have to take out a small loan to pay for a pint, but Africa is still one of the poorest continents on the planet. The average wage in Malawi is just $170, whereas here in the UK it's $40,000! It's no better in South Africa which has raised investment money on foreign markets and is currently in an energy crisis.

So what is the answer? One might be to save some money and take time out to travel to Africa; you'll spend less than you would in the UK and at the same time boost their economies. Be sure that your money stays in the country you visit by using local tour companies, restaurants and accommodation.

BBC on-line article

The Times online article
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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Norwich have the X Factor too!

There may have been goals galore in the Champions League, but there were a fair few in the Championship too, especially at Carrow Road! Leroy Lita hit a hat-trick as Norwich notched a win which knocked Wolves off the top of the Championship table!

For a side that had scored just one goal from open play in their previous six games and only eight in the first 11 games of the season, a five-goal tally was simply staggering.

Come on you Canaries! Promotion here we come!

After thought from Simon, "I agree Norwich are actually quite good!"
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Champions League: 36 Goals in one night!

Yes last night the English clubs did us proud.  A total of 36 goals were scored in the Champions League equaling the record for most scored in one evening.  My personal favourite was Del Piero's blinding first time shot from just outside the area.  

It was a slightly controversial night with Dimitar Berbatov scoring two goals against Celtic which appeared to be both offside.  However the Celtic boss Gordon Stachan praised Man U, commenting on them as the best Manchester Side he had ever seen and that Wayne Roony was 'unplayable'.  Arsenal celebrated a sweet victory away at Fenerbahce 5-2 as the youngster’s walked all over the likes of Roberto Carlos. 

However the biggest football news of this week was a win for Stoke on Sunday!  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a top 4 place!

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Welcome to new valued member of staff!

The George Foreman Grill has revolutionized our lunches long gone are the days of boring old ham and cheeses sarnies and hello fish, pork and grilled broccoli. one of the benefits of the grill as Kate will testify is the Black gold that is left after any pork produce has been cooked, you should see her run for the grill!! So a massive please to meet you to George and his black gold! Already employee of the month and probably the year!

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Quest prepares for Children in Need

With Children in Need fast approaching, the Quest office is in discussion as to how we can do our bit. Latest idea is a sponsored dance off, I'm a little worried about the source of this inspiration though...

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Monday, 20 October 2008

Katie's Friends take the Grim Challenge

Lots of respect to Emma Taylor, Tom Morgan and Alistair Richardson for signing up to the Grim Challenge. They will run 8 miles through bushes, lakes and mud in deepest darkest December, all to help raise funds for Katie's Campaign.

See details of the race here
To sponsor them for their stirling efforts, click on their Justgiving site here
To learn more about Katie Ashbridge's Campaign, click on the tab at the top of this page

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Botswana's Good Governance Pays Off

Botswana's former president has won a $5 million prize to encourage good governance in Africa.  Botswana is one of Africa's most stable countries - it has never had a coup and has regular multi-party elections since independence in 1966.

Botswana is the world's biggest diamond producer but unlike other resource rich countries in Africa, this has not become a source of conflict.

Kofi Annan added, "Botswana demonstrates how a country with natural resources can promote sustainable development with good governance, in a continent where too often mineral wealth has become a curse".

As well as the $5m prize, Mr Mogae gets $200,000 a year for the rest of his life.

So if you fancy checking more of Botswana's natural resources then come join our Southern Africa Quest for Mokoro safari's and Big Game Spotting!

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Villa Maria 2006

Don't want you to think that i haven't been thinking about you all! I know that seldom a day goes past when I am not in your thoughts. So for all of you starting your final year of uni or their first, (you know who you are) here is a reminder as to the work you did two years ago. As an after thought i want you all to know that not one of you has any rhythm, however you were the first and still only team to play rugby in Lima against a load of professionals.

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Everyone loves coffee!

Many people cannot start the day without a hit of caffeine, with approximately 70 million cups of coffee drank in Britain on a daily basis!  The industry is approximated to be worth 1 billion pounds a year.  But it looks like a niche in the market has been overlooked?

That's right, when this bear came across this discarded cup he fell head over heels.  Bears have the best smell in the business.  A polar bear can smell a seal through 6 inches of ice and in the North of America they have become more dangerous as they come into camps searching for a free meal.  Campers and hikers are constantly advised to keep all food locked away although it seems all they need is a cup off coffee to tame these wild beasts!

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Thursday, 16 October 2008

Medal Heros parade through London

For those of you who live in London you might get a chance to spot all our glorious Medal winners from this summers Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is lead by the 'real McHoy' Chris Hoy who won 3 golds and dominated the mens cycling at the velodrome.

If you can't make it to London then you can check it out live on BBC on-line.

BBC live coverage
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Nutty News: Hope for the red squirrel

Scientists have found that some red squirrels have developed immunity to a disease that has ravaged their numbers.

The pox is transmitted by grey squirrels; but while greys suffer no ill effects from it, if a red catches the virus it will be dead within weeks.

As the grey squirrels increased their range, red squirrels have suffered huge population declines and now exist in just a few pockets around the British Isles.  But recent findings have shown 8 red squirrils to have the anti-virus and some immunity to the pox!  The findings, published in EcoHealth, suggest a vaccine could now help to save red squirrels from annihilation.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Cherry Flavoured Malaria Pills

A cherry-flavoured pill which is easy to swallow could help save the lives of children in malaria-affected areas, say researchers in Tanzania.

Malaria is one of mankind's oldest known killers, with descriptions of the disease dating back almost 5000 years. Each year, malaria causes 300-500 million infections, and up to 3 million deaths--about 5000 Africans die of the disease every day; one child succumbs every 30 seconds.

They say the tablet is not as bitter as other anti-malaria drugs and does not need to be crushed before eating.  This would make it easier for children to stick to the treatment, the team told the medical journal, The Lancet.  Malaria kills more than a million people every year, many of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.  There is no vaccine for malaria but it is curable if treated promptly.  However, drugs currently used to treat it are very bitter and often need to be crushed before children can swallow them, which can weaken the medicine.

Salim Abdulla of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania said the new cherry-flavoured pill was easy to administer and effective.  Health experts say the pill could help to promote better outcomes from treatment and delay the development of drug resistant strains of the disease.

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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Ivan Branckenbury

Last night Jon and I were supposed to go see Ivan Brackenbury with the Active Parity lads, however one cried off at the last minute, (you know who you are, I'm not angry just very disappointed!) at the Brighton Comedy Festival. It was fantastic, oh how we laughed, recommend it to everyone that isn't easily offended.

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Quest team supports Godchance in Tanzania

The Tanzania 2008 January GAP team have been getting together to sponsor one of the the builders from their project. Godchance (above far left) has worked with Quest Overseas for the last few years on our project based in Mshiri on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Godchance not only worked alongside all of the volunteers to finish the Accommodation block but became everyone’s close friend as well.  The new block will enable 100 people who live too far away from the Vocational Centre to learn important skills such as carpentry, masonry and craft making.

He works hard to support his family and the team are now sponsoring his first step to become a tour guide.  He has just started driving lessons and we wish him and his family all the best here at the office.  

It is always fantastic to see ex-volunteers who are keen to help after they have left the project, so well done to all!!

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Brighton Comedy Festival

Doom and gloom and grey skies have signalled the start of Autumn 2008.  So what better way to cheer up than pop down to Brighton, not only to see us but to see some top-class comedy too?

The BBC has even reported that Comedy clubs have avoided the squeeze of the credit crunch because having a good laugh is something people will always fork out for - even in an economic meltdown!

So if you fancy coming down to see us why not book a good comedy show to check out too?  This year we have the likes of Ed Byrne, Russel Howard, Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle, Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey to offer.  Staff outing to Reginald D Hunter this Thursday promises to be a good one!

What have Icelandic banks and an Icelandic streaker got in common?
They both have frozen assets

Quote of the day (from a trader): "This is worse than a divorce. I've lost half my net worth and I still have a wife."

Talked to my bank manager the other day and he said he was going to concentrate on the big issues from now on. He sold me one outside Boots yesterday!.

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Early African Exodus

Scientists have found a possible new route taken by early modern humans as they expanded out of Africa to colonise the rest of the world.

Researchers, from the universities of Bristol, Southampton, Oxford, Hull and Tripoli in Libya, have confirmed that there was a new possible route where rivers once flowed from the central Saharan watershed all the way to the Mediterranean.

Similarities in the style of stone tools being made in Chad and Sudan with those manufactured in Libya during this key period, lend the theory some support, say the scientists.

Researchers had previously focused on the Nile Valley as the principal route of dispersal into other continents by early representatives of our species.

Although it is unclear which routes they took to get there, Homo sapiens had reached the Levant by around 100,000 years ago, where their remains are known from Es Skhul and Qafzeh in Israel.

However, this appears to have been an early, failed foray outside Africa by modern humans. By 75,000 years ago, Neanderthals had replaced our species in the region.

Then, about 45,000 years ago, modern humans reoccupied the area.
Genetic evidence suggests that populations living outside Africa today are the descendents of a migration which originated in the east of the continent between 60-70,000 years ago.

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Monday, 13 October 2008

X Factor or Spoof? Hard to tell!

That was the most worrying thing about Peter Kay's programme last night, it was hard to notice much difference between this spoof version and the real thing. I think we've got a few new routines for our stage shows at the kids' project in Villa Maria, Peru this coming year though, that's how I'm justifying having watched it at least...!

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Ray Mears

You're lost in the middle of nowhere.
Dusk is present, soon to be greeted by the imminent blanket of darkness.
You are hungry and wet, you notice a figure walking towards you in shorts and penknife in hand.

Struck by fear you can't move! That is until you notice it's Ray Mears, warmth fills from within - you are saved. Undoubtedly a fire will soon be raging made from nothing but trapped wind and an eye lash, followed by a succulent meal of worms and leaves. The man is incredible, an office Hero. Bellow is an article from the Guardian

Autumn is Ray Mears's favourite season "because the campfire seems important again". Stags are rutting near his home in East Sussex and the low sun struggles to wipe away the heavy morning dew. Lying on the damp, leaf-covered ground recently, Mears came within touching distance of two curious deer. He must have kept very still. "Your body doesn't have to be still," he explains. "As long as you are spiritually still, then things happen. That inner current is most important of all. It draws things to you." He quotes the Canadian conservationist Grey Owl - "Remember that we all belong to nature" - and then recalls what was once said about the man: "'When the average person walks into the woods and they tread on a stick and it snaps, the animals unite against the intruder in silence, and part of that silence was Grey Owl.' I've always tried to be a part of that silence."

Britain's favourite bushcraft expert detonated a minor explosion earlier this year when he dismissed his rival TV adventurer Bear Grylls as "a boy scout" and "a showman". In a recent Guardian interview, Grylls graciously accepted that Mears was "much tougher" than he was. A plush restaurant in central London is probably not the ideal place for a survival guru to launch round two and Mears wants none of it. "It's boring," he says dismissively as he orders cream of watercress soup and tuna loin. He does not consider himself a TV personality and also rejects the survival expert tag. "I don't want to be stereotyped with this word, 'survivor'. I can't stand that. It's a small part of what I do," he says. "I'm a simple woodsman."

Mears is part of the way through filming a new BBC series in northern Canada and has just published a book of photographs culled from 300,000 images he has taken during 20 years of travelling the world. Between rather lovely portraits of native people from southern Ireland to Africa's Skeleton Coast, he writes that he seeks out "quiet moments rather than loud". From this year's Ray Mears Goes Walkabout to earlier series of Ray Mears' Bushcraft, his TV series are more sensitive and reflective than rival outdoor adventure shows. "Because I'm a woodsman, I live in the woods and I notice the subtle things that aren't normally spotted," he says. "I did have one producer who kept writing lines like, 'If you don't do this, you'll die in minutes.' It's just not true so I won't say it. I want to show things as they are. There's an immature view of wilderness as being a threat to human beings, but for most of the people I work with it's home."

Mears grew up in Kenley, Surrey, where the suburbs of south London meet the North Downs. How did he develop his great love for woodland? "I didn't develop it - it developed me. It found me." Being an only child, he believes, "was an important part of shaping me". There is still something stolid and short-trousered about Mears, even though he is 44. It is easy to imagine him stomping off on his own into the countryside as a boy. He would trace the source of a spring on his OS map or follow animal tracks. "Times alone are when you have a chance to listen to your own mind. That's something we don't allow ourselves today," he says. "I was very lucky to grow up in that generation before mobile phones. It's fascinating how thought processes today are constantly interrupted. Although we can communicate faster, we are able to think less quickly and less clearly because of these interruptions."

Unable to join the Royal Marines because of poor eyesight, he found himself taking a job in the City at 18. He soon quit and founded Woodlore, his "bushcraft school" which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. "I didn't know anything really," he says, but he had taught himself enough about lighting fires and edible wild foods to begin passing it on to ordinary people and professionals, including army units.

When he was 12, his father, a printer for the Times, gave him his first 35mm camera. Just as with his bushcraft, he went off on his own and taught himself photography, eventually winning commissions for magazines. "The best photographers are self-taught, I'm convinced of that - they are not full of pretensions," he says. Apart from David Bailey - "my goodness, he's fantastic" - his favourites are two National Geographic contributors, Sam Abell and Jim Brandenburg. Abell's photography "is very quiet", says Mears. "In the stillness of his images is genius." Mears, too, seeks out subtle images in quiet moments; photography is something he "absolutely" does for himself, squeezed around the hectic schedule of his TV trips.

Like many autodidacts, Mears expresses his hard-won knowledge in quite a fierce way. Occasionally this can sound like he's showing off. "I don't like showing off; I want to teach," he says. He is also keen to learn. "Sometimes people don't understand how I can have an expertise in so many different areas. But I do. For example, fungi. I went to Kew Gardens and studied with Dr Derek Reid, who was fantastic. I've always sought out the best sources, and if I become interested in a subject I am absolutely focused upon it and I will not leave it alone until I really understand it. I want to understand something to the point of innovation."

His latest obsession is deer management. Hunting is not always bad "and conservation isn't always good", he argues. "For example, nature safaris are not wholly good. There are some places where there are too many tourists observing the wildlife and wildlife has to alter its behaviour, in places where hunters make virtually no detrimental impact and bring money into the economy. Now that's counterintuitive." Mears enjoys stalking and killing deer and eating wild venison. Where does he stand on fox hunting? "We have spent a lot of money and effort to preserve an unendangered species at a time when common species of birds were becoming endangered." He would not hunt the fox but, "that doesn't mean to say I'm against somebody else hunting it".

People tend to "think emotionally" about conservation "rather than from a point of real knowledge," he says. "That's caring too much. You can love something to death." And yet there is an important emotional, spiritual dimension to his thinking. Setting aside woodland for preservation is not enough. "You also have to make it possible for people to access it, touch it, feel it, smell it, light a fire, sit around and enjoy it," he says. "Once you teach people the value of trees and plants around them, they see them as friends, they feel connected to them and they feel responsibility for them and conservation ceases to be a crusade, it becomes a way of life."

Mears is passionate about environmental education but has not yet been tempted by politics. I mention that David Cameron has been talking to people outside the normal political arena. "I think he's a good man. I'd like to meet him to gauge that better," he replies.

Beyond his enthusiastic, knowledgeable TV persona, Mears seems a very private, solitary man. He has no children of his own and two years ago his wife, Rachel, who was 50 and had two grown-up children, died of cancer. They had been together for more than a decade and had only recently married. Her ashes are scattered near a yew tree in Ashdown forest, a short drive from his home. Has he thought about a family of his own again? "My life goes where nature takes it. I'm happy at the moment and life has moved on. It must," he says. A slight redness appears around his eyes. "She was a tremendous loss but also the journey we made together was fantastic. That's what you have to remember. There's nothing else you can say really. I'm not one to cry over spilt milk. That sounds a bit callous ... I don't mean it like that, but you have to pick yourself up and carry on".

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Thanks Mum for the Meat!

What better to cheer you up on a grey Monday afternoon than a good piece of meat to chew on?  For some people it might be a big lump of chocolate but I love savory.  This week I have a tasty bit of lamb, the left over’s of the Deaville Sunday lunch.  While chewing on the baby animal carcass I hear from the other side of the office,

"I have never been more proud of you, you look like a real man." - Simon Tierney

Indeed I did feel like a 'real' man, but don't worry a little bit of Elton John stirred up my emotional side again.

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Friday, 10 October 2008

Shocking Sportswear

With a less than inspiring weekend of sport awaiting us, just a routine England match; we thought you might be inspired by some of these sporting 'fashion' gems!

This is Stade Francais latest 'butch' strip.

This a dashing cycling suit from Italian Mario Cipollini.

And this is what our African teams will be wearing on their rest days next year!
Lets hope England are slightly less shocking tomorrow.
Have a great weekend.

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Thursday, 9 October 2008

Probably the best flip flops in the world!

Yes the world’s favourite flip flop has come to Quest Overseas.  A special delivery of 150 pairs of Havaiana's were received in September.  The secret to the sandals success has been its 46 year old legacy of flexible, comfortable and incredibly durable fashion wear.  Havaianas means Hawaiian in Portuguese and is a tribute to the glamorous American holiday destination.  9 pairs are made every second and 2.2 billion pairs have been sold since their introduction in 1962!  If you laid them end to end they would circle the earth 50 times!

The flip flops currently sell for £19.99 at Schuh stores across the UK, all volunteers with Quest Overseas this coming year will receive a pair.

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Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Big Cat Live BBC1

If you are a Safari nut like me then check out the live feed for this weeks special Big Cat Live series on BBC.  This morning I watched 3 male leopards stalking 3 young cubs.  As 2 of them scattered the last stood his ground, it is unknown if he survived, all will be revealed tonight on BBC1 at 8pm!

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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

"Lightning" Danny Vaz shines in Bristol

Well done to ex-South America leader Danny for your sterling effort at the Bristol Half Marathon - an extremely respectable 1hr 40mins. For the wellbeing of all spectators though, if you decide to run another race, Quest Overseas will be happy to sponsor you with some longer shorts - are those even legal?!!!

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