By: V. Gonzalez
From the 21st to the 23rd of April, Form 4s had their qualifier trip of the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. As part of group two, we had heard some rummers of what it would be like, but nothing could prepare us for what was coming. Arriving at the pousada in São Francisco Xavier, we prepared ourselves to sleep in our tents for the first night. We had dinner specially cooked for us by the wonderful hosts of the pousada, and soon after went to sleep, some of us having lots of difficulties to get used to sleeping with only a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag.
The next morning we woke up and ate our breakfast, getting ready to spend the rest of the day on the trail. My group was the last one, we had to wait around 40 minutes after the first group left so that we could have some space between the groups.
The beginning of the trail was on streets, and continued to be so for quite a while. After a few hours, we finally reached the section of the trail with many more trees and plants around us, where the trail was less defined and more thinking was required. The first day was extremely challenging as we spent around 5 to 6 hours walking, mostly of which was on an extremely steep path, climbimbing up the mountain. Having only a few breaks, we were always pushing ourselves forward, always keeping the positive thoughts. The journey consisted of everyone trying to avoid the aching pain in our legs, trying to avoid the huge, heavy weights in our backs, and always trying to cheer ourselves up. We walked together as a team, helping each other whenever needed and talking along the way as a distraction. I confess there were times in which we thought on giving up, we considered stopping and quitting, but these negative thoughts were unable to consume us. We rose up carried on pushing forward, having as our main motivation to reach the top of the mountain and encounter our teammates that would be waiting for us.
It was tough. The climbing was tough. The trail was tough. But at last, we finally made it. We reached the top of the mountain, and saw our friends waiting for us with smiles on their faces, just like we imagined. They all helped us settle down and build up our tents. We put on some warm clothes and analysed our camp site. It was beautiful. As I came closer to the edge of the camp site, it was one the prettiest views I have ever seen. The sight of all the other mountains surrounding us was incredible. We were so high even the clouds were below our feet. No words can describe what the sunset and sunrise from that perspective looked like. As I sat and observed the view, I came to the conclusion that all that suffering and all that pain from the trail was worth what was waiting for us at the end of the tunnel. This was definitely worth ever drop of sweat.
As the sun fell down and the moon rose up, we had cooked our dinner by lighting up our stoves cooking our pasta so that our group was nice and fed, ready to go to sleep. After a very long day, getting inside our sleeping bags and turning off our torches felt like the best thing in the world. However, little did we know that during that night, the temperature would drop to what we supposed to be around -3ºC. Everyone froze, but as we woke up the next day, we simply looked over the horizon and everything suddenly seemed to be better. The morning was still extremely cold, reaching around 10ºC, but we put ourselves together, and again, as a team, helped each other put down our tents and pack our bags to get ready for the next whole day of trekking.
Day two was also very tough. Although we thought it would be quite easier as we would now be going down the mountain. We strongly believed it wouldn’t be a challenge, but we were completely wrong. Going down the mountain is just as difficult and climbing up. While going down, your knees hurt, your toes are squashed and your back continues to hurt because of your heavy bag. Yes, we have done this before during our practice expedition, and I don’t know about the others but I completely forgot what it felt like. And so another 5 to 6 hours of trekking continued on day two.
You are now probably thinking why would anyone ever take part in such journey? I agree, the trip had lots and lots of suffering, it was a huge amount of hard work, but I can assure you that there is no feeling like the one when you finally reach the end of the trek. You feel accomplished, joy, happiness, exhaustion and most of all, you feel succeeded. Taking part in a Duke of Edinburgh International Award is not for anyone, it requires dedication, team working skills, positivity and ambition. Congratulations to everyone involved.