By: O. Lotufo
After months of anxiously waiting and much preparation, Form 5 finally managed to complete their first ever Duke Expedition. On Saturday, the 25th of September, we enthusiastically – and quite nervously – travelled to a hotel in Itamonte (Minas Gerais), where we would prepare before heading off to our long-awaited journey. In the ‘pousada’, we were taught how to set up a tent, cook our food, and properly pack our backpacks – all of which were extremely important skills if we were to survive the hike. After the workshops, we had dinner and went to bed.
As we opened our eyes in the morning, we were hit with the realization that this was it. The day had come. And so, after a home-cooked breakfast at the hotel, we hopped onto buses and were taken to the National Park of Itatiaia. Split into 7 different groups and 3 different hikes, we wished our friends luck, waved goodbye, and began our adventure following the trail.
Personally, my group and I went on the “Ruy Braga” track, along with others who had started a few minutes before. Our walk began on a dirt road, and soon we faced our first junction, where we were required to consult the map; not long after, we realized the continuation of the trail was uphill a rocky mountain. Needless to say, it was quite the challenge. Yet, as cliché as it might sound, the cooperation between our team members truly is what made our success possible, and so we got to the top.
As the day went on, more challenges arose; our increasing tiredness certainly was one of our main obstacles. We continued seeing breath-taking views from atop the mountain, and with the blue sky and shining sun, it honestly was picture-perfect. During our trail, on a rare glimpse of human life outside our group, we even encountered another crowd of hikers: their words of encouragement were essential. Motivated, we managed to arrive at the campsite before dark.
Once we had set up our tents, and rested our very tired legs, we began making our food; pasta is the staple Duke dinner, and so we stuck to that. After we finished eating, we all talked for a while, and then went to bed.
The next morning, we woke up at 6 am, ate our prepacked breakfasts (bisnaguinha with Nutella is another Duke essential), and continued with our track. This section was mainly downhill, full of zigzags and turns, and so our knees got quite tired. However, we did successfully arrive at the “finish-line”, feeling extremely accomplished and happy with ourselves.
To wrap up the trip, we had lunch at a local restaurant: the groups were split into two different locations, and we were very thankful for the home-cooked, hot meal (especially since some of us had recently faced some culinary disasters.) We then got into the bus and arrived back at school around 11:30 pm on Monday night.
Personally, I believe this was one of the best school trips we have ever been on, and I’m sure many will agree. Despite the exhaustion and pains felt after the hike, Duke provided us with an unforgettable experience: we were able to visit one of Brazil’s most beautiful national parks, become closer to those we don’t normally mingle with, and discover our limits are much higher than we thought.