4 days that we will all cherish forever and 3 expeditions that we will remember eternally.
Our Duke Qualifying Expedition began in the traverse of Serra do Papagaio with Serra do Coelho in Minas Gerais. After months of preparations, 13 lucky Pauleans had the privilege to complete their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. Yet our journey didn’t quite begin only a couple of months before our trip; in fact, we’ve been preparing for this moment since our first ever Duke expedition – our bronze trip to Monte Verde.
Hard work and resilience carried these exceptional 13 individuals all the way through the completion of this award. When our journey began all the way back in F3, I remember when the one and only ‘Crème de la crème’ Mr. Zigsmond - or as we like to call him, ‘Zigirigidum’ – turned to me at the end of my bronze expedition and told me he’d soon see me achieving my gold award. In disbelief I laughed it off and thought to myself how hard it would be to get all the way to the final gold expedition. Looking back at it now I thank my 13-year-old self for not giving up.
Every expedition brings with itself a distinct memory for me. During my first ever Duke, the best part of it for me was watching the sunset with my whole year group at the top of Monte Verde at the campsite. In Silver, during our trip to Paraty, the companionship within my walking group and the memories we cultivated is something I’ll carry with me forever. And finally, after this gold expedition, I can confidently say the best part of it was the experience as a whole. The places we visited, the laughs we had, the tears we shed, the food we ate, the jokes we told, the music we listened to, and most importantly, the people with whom we shared this expedition with.
Mr. Ziggy with his constant positive outlook in life. Branca with her sensitivity and love for us all. Zara and his gift to cure our hurt feet’s after 30km of walking. Milla with the delicious food she prepared and that we always loved to get the scraps from. These and all the ones who contributed to making this trip a possibility.
The thing with Duke for me Is that it is something that I am truly grateful for being able to experience. Many people ask gold participants why we chose to do this. Why go to the jungle for 4 days, eat pasta every night, sleep in tents just to hike over 10km everyday? Because we like this. We love sitting around the campsite cooking our Barilla pasta with pesto sauce at 6pm with a blanket of stars illuminating us from above. We love entering the waterfalls we encounter mid trail. We love eating ‘bisnaguinha’ with Nutella every morning as breakfast. We love getting up 6am with Mr. Ziggy shaking our tents saying, “Good morning, Crème d la crème!” to watch the sunrise from the top of the largest mountain we’ve ever climbed. We love making memories and experiencing things that would otherwise be impossible if we hadn’t done Duke.
Having accomplished this Gold Award shows how we are capable of so much more than we think. 13-year-old Nina would be in shock and so proud that I’ve achieved this award. That I persevered and pushed through all the way to the final gold expedition.
We live in an era where hustle culture prevails, and we forget to take a time for ourselves and breathe. We believe that faster is better, yet in reality, there Is an ode to slowness. During every Duke expedition, I cherish each moment. I completely disconnect from my worries and my phone, and I take in all the experience. Slowing down allows us to truly cherish what is important.
I am beyond proud of myself and my fellow classmates for achieving this award and I’d like to thank Mr. Zsigsomnd for his never-ending devotion to us and to this expedition. We are and will continue to be forever grateful for having the opportunity to build so many memories and experience so much during these expeditions. We will all carry with us the infinite teachings Duke brought to us throughout our lives. If you’re reading this and you have the possibility to do a Duke expedition, please do so, take that leap of faith and I promise you it won’t be something to regret.