By: A. C. Leonetti
On Friday the 1st of September 2017, 13 students of both the L6 and U6 left the school at 13:00 (myself included) to walk up, down and along the stunning ridgelines of Serra do Papagaio on the frontiers of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, as part of our Duke of Edinburgh Gold practice expedition. We were accompanied by Mr. Kennedy (the Duke of Edinburgh director at St. Paul’s), Mr. Bryan and 3 very competent and experience treehouse instructors.
After a 5-hour car ride, we arrived at a lovely posada where we had the chance to take showers, dine, and sleep in some lovely chalés before the commencement of our adventure. The next morning, we woke up at so that we had all our bags packed and ready to leave at 8. At 8 we got on a minivan and a Combi for an hour drive until the start of the trail. We were split up into 2 walking groups, which we would stay with for the duration of the next 4 days.
The first day wasn’t as challenging navigation wise as it was physically. It consisted of an overall increase in altitude of approximately 500 meters, which might not seem like a lot, but don’t let the number fool you, because when carrying your food, pan, water, tent and clothes, it sure seems like a lot more. The first night we camped at the top of a cliff with a stunning sunset and sun rise view. We set up our tents, cooked our meals and settled in for a cold night.
The following morning once again we were up at 6:00 and ready and packed at 8:45. The second day had the most amazing views as we were mostly walking along the ridge-lines. We were also blessed with some marvelous weather and great visibility which not only made the day so much lovelier but it also made our lives a lot easier when it came to navigating. For the second night, we camped a valley right beside a river.
The next day, upon waking up, we were surprised by a layer of ice that had formed over all our belongings, so, needless to say, the weather that morning was quite chilly. However, as the day progressed we encountered once again some typical Brazilian weather, with a bright hot sun shining over thin clouds. The plan for that day wasn’t very different to the first: we began the walk as usual but unfortunately both groups ended up walking a few extra kilometers than intended. The first group walked more than needed due to a navigational issue and the second group passed the campsite and had to return, thereby adding additional kilometers to their journey.
The fourth and final day was the shortest of them all: the walking began at 8:30 and we were done before midday. After some very steep downhill climbs, we stopped at a hip commune for lunch where we had some delicious vegetarian food. To finalize the trip, we got into mini vans which took us back to the pousada where we left from. All that was left then was the drive back to school!