By H. Prado
“The biggest difficulty in Duke is mental, not physical”. That is what Mr. Zsigmond said to us during one of our first Duke of Edinburgh meetings, and it is also what we constantly remembered throughout our Gold Practice Trip as we hiked through 50Km of lush vegetation, towering mountains, and several waterfalls in Serra da Bocaina.
On the first day, we arrived at a pousada in which we re-organized our equipment and slept in tents after having dinner which was carefully prepared and catered for us. The next morning, we were served with homemade breads prepared by the pousada staff, and we were surely reminiscent of this during our following days eating Bisnaguinhas with Nutella.
We then began our hike through the national park as we noticed our habitual landscape that is filled with skyscrapers be replaced by several araucarias. 20 Km later, we arrived at our campsite, laid out tents, and, after eating our customary pasta dinners, different walking groups shared stories of what happened during their trails.
On the second day, we cruised through a valley and passed through multiple farms until we reached what Mr. Zsigmond described to us as his favourite campsite. Setting up our tents, we saw that it was impossible not to agree with him as we noticed how the location was made into a peninsula by the surrounding river. Several of us were mesmerized by the vegetation, the rope swing, and by our descent to the 7th largest waterfall in Brazil. Likewise, many of us were simply thrilled to take our heavy backpacks off and swap our boots for more comfortable shoes.
Finally, on the third day, we hiked back across the valley, and we ascended through several hills until we reached what remains to me as one of the biggest challenges of our trip. Arriving at the final farm, we were unexpectedly greeted with several bulls which had not been put away, meaning that we could not cross the land. Despite this, following Mr. Zsigmond’s remark about the mental difficulty of the expedition, we realized that we needed to think calmly about how to proceed. Having discussed with our treehouse monitor, we saw that it was best to wait for more groups to gather so that we could cross in a larger number of people.
Having succeeded at that, we walked a few more kilometers to the end of our expedition. We then observed the final waterfall and took 4x4 vehicles to a restaurant from which we departed back to São Paulo.
Looking back on our trip, it is easy to see how Mr. Zsigmond’s statement was correct: the hardest parts is not the trail itself but the finding the perseverance to continue in the face of challenges like tiredness, rain, and, especially in our case, a group of bulls along the trail. However, we were aided by very helpful staff and by our walking groups, all of which supported our mental and physical strains, leaving us ready and looking forward to the Qualifying Expedition.