When I was 16, I travelled to Brazil as part of a World Challenge Expedition through school with 13 other pupils and 2 of our teachers. I found my diary I wrote at the time recently, so have decided to edit it, remove some of the 16-year old me random thoughts, and write it up. To travel there, we had to fundraise the £2770 per person in the 2 years leading up to the trip and then plan and organise everything ourselves while we were there, supervised by our 2 teachers.
We got off the night bus from São Paulo early in the morning and had to wander around the bus station for a while because local buses didn’t leave until 8.30am. After buses failed to appear, Katie and I went to ask, and they said we were in completely the wrong place and needed to be further up the road- Argh! We were annoying the locals a bit- they weren’t happy with us trying to find the right bus, so Mike (teacher) got out his camera and started filming them to scare them off.
When we got off the bus at the other end in Teresópolis, we walked through the Serra dos Órgãos National Park. My sack is so heavy! We were able to leave some of our stuff at the ranger’s office at the start of the National Park, which was good, because most of it was uphill. This is why we have an acclimatisation phase I suppose- so we can get used to the heat and walking with all of our kit before we do our main trek. At our campsite, we set up the tents and had to make our first meal using the Trangiers- wasn’t too bad. Then we played some frisbee. Before we went to sleep, we went for a walk to a viewpoint so we could look over Teresópolis- it was amazing.
Photo: Playing frisbee at the campsite
Photo: Teresópolis viewpoint, Serra dos Órgãos National Park
Photo: Teresópolis viewpoint, Serra dos Órgãos National Park
I woke up at 5.45am and it was still dark, but by 6.15 it was light. The campsite had pretty good toilet and shower facilities, but I was too lazy to do the faff of getting out of the tent without waking the others and walk in the dark! We had breakfast and then started our formal acclimatisation trek to the very top of the mountain, which should take about 4 hours. It was mostly through (what I called) ‘semi-rainforest’, and Jen hadn’t eaten her malaria tablet with food, so was sick pretty soon in. You had to push your way through branches and trees most of the time, despite being on a path. Then Jen M started to feel sick near the top. It was pretty warm and humid and we had rucksacks with us. Plus we were pretty high up.
Photo: Ready for our acclimatisation trek.
At the top, you could see for miles. You could see Rio, and that was 93km away. We had lunch at the top: pitta and cheese. We take it in turns doing different jobs like cooks, team leader, budget etc. I’m a bit fed up of pitta bread now because we have it with every meal, but it’s light to carry and it doesn’t matter if it gets squashed. On the way back down, we saw a little monkey run across the pathway with some bigger monkeys, which was pretty cool. Johnny named them Hugo, Derek and Phillip. Apparently the entire walk that day was 15 miles, which we did in 4.5 hours on the way up and 2 on the way back.
Photos: At the top, Brazilian Highlands
Ruth’s foot was still bothering her, so we went down and back to camp really quickly because we thought we might have to take her to the Doctor, which we’d have to have done before it got dark. She said she was ok when we got back though, so Mike put her on antibiotics instead.
Once we’d packed up our tents and kit in the Serra dos Órgãos National Park, we walked down the road to Teresópolis to catch a bus. We’ve got quite good at buses now, we do a chain of people to get our bags loaded, and me and another person get on first and ask the driver to tell us when our stop is, which they’re usually happy to do.
This time we were getting the bus to Rio (edit: I don’t think this is Rio de Janeiro, I think it’s Rio Bonito in Rio de Janeiro State) from Teresópolis. Ruth, Andrea and I went to order the bus tickets: Ruth was on transport, Andrea budget and me Portuguese. We got a bit stuck though because they wouldn’t let us book tickets without ID to say we were over 18, which we weren’t. So we had to go and find Katie and her passport.
We had breakfast at the bus station. I don’t know what it was, but it was so nice we had 2 breakfasts! It was a bit like stodgy bread with cheese and ham. The bus to Rio took an hour and a half, and their buses are so much better than ours in the UK! So much more comfortable! We got to Rio about 1pm and put our bags in storage. It’s so hot in Rio- it was 26 degrees Celsius in the shade.
We had to change our plans around for the trip because Ruth’s foot was still swelling and Katie had done something to her hip. This was a bit disappointing because our project was supposed to be in a day centre for Favela children, and this would mean we would be there in the school holidays when there would be no children. Most of us agreed that this would be better overall for the team, because it would mean that Ruth and Katie wouldn’t miss the main trek (which is what we were supposed to be doing now). One person wasn’t happy at all though.
This meant that we now needed bus tickets to Curitiba, our project city. Jen, Ruth and me went to find tickets. Jen wandered off a bit trying to look at the sales desks, but this made it tricky because it was a really busy bus station and people kept blocking us in trying to sell us stuff- we clearly looked like tourists. Things got a bit fraught and stressful but we got there in the end.
Our bus wasn’t leaving for a while so we got the bus to the centre of town to eat ‘lunch’ (at 3.30) but everywhere was shut because it was Sunday. So we ended up at ‘Bob’s Burgers’- very Brazilian! Back to the bus station, although we got a bit lost and another bus driver had to stop his bus in the middle of the road to help us.
Wherever we go, people wave at us! One school bus stopped just so that all the pupils on it could wave at us! It’s so strange- but then we’re very touristy looking, all white people and Jen M has red hair- they’ve never seen red hair before apparently. A few of us went to have dinner in the fanciest restaurant in the bus station, which actually turned out to be really quite posh (even if we did have pizza, coke and chips)! I’m currently writing this before we catch our night bus, while sat on someone’s rucksack guarding it in the bus station, and Becky and Andrea are talking about leg waxes- random!