10 Things To Know Before Your First Trek
2017 was a year of firsts. When a generally lazy person like me takes on a trek- however amateur- the result can be surprisingly refreshing. I expected nothing short of breathlessness, broken limbs and eventual defeat. While all of this showed up in some measure here and there, the experience was exhilarating. I came back feeling fitter, despite the fever I had taken on while sleeping under the stars.. and pouring rain. And the next time someone tells me to “Go take a hike” I might take it literally. But with new experiences come new lessons, and here are my top 10 better-know-before-you-go tips:
- The first 2 kilometres are the toughest. It actually does get easier after this, irrespective of your level of fitness. In fact when our trek began, I barely even made it through the first 300 meters. I was panting and tired and begging for a break, some refreshments in the form of maggi and cookies and was basically just employing any delaying tactics I could think of. Luckily after the first 2 kilometres, I became much more comfortable and the trekking bag didn’t seem too tough to carry either.
- Take breaks but no longer than a minute. Don’t give your body time to get comfortable/rested again. If there was just one advice I could give to first-time trekkers, it would be this. As soon as I body gets comfortable, it requires additional energy to get going again. Try delaying your breaks as much as possible, but even if your breaks are frequent, make sure you don’t sit for more than a minute. Don’t take off your backpack.
- Eat well but not too much before your trek: Obviously, one could use the energy. But too much food could make you lethargic or lazy. Eat high-energy food instead of junk, and carry some fresh vegetables along the way. We stopped for fresh watermelon juice a few times, and it worked wonders.
- Carry as little as possible: Goes without saying, but we all end up making the mistake of carrying “one additional piece of clothing” or an extra pair of shoes. I feel extremely cold and since we were going to sleep in tents at the end of the trek, I figured it was important to carry a heavy jacket and an extra pair of shoes in case of rain. I ended up using neither, despite the rain and a pair of soaking wet shoes. Carry only necessities, or things you would be happy to part with or to donate to children up there at the camp site.
- Keep yourself hydrated: Walking under the sun can really drain you out. Instead of gulping down large sips of water, try to sip on it from time to time.
- Sun burns are real- and painful: This one I learnt the hard way. I wore a tunic during our trek since the sun was shining down upon us quite hard. At first I didn’t feel a thing, so I naturally didn’t bother with any sunblock cream. At the end of the trek my arms and back were completely red and it hurt to even touch anything. It would burn if I even brushed my arm against any kind of clothing. My advice: keep the sunblock ready and re-apply several times. Despite the heat- wear a t-shirt with sleeves.
- Don’t carry a DSLR/Fancy Camera: Shot on iPhone 6 is an actual thing, people. I carried the camera around in hopes of capturing the view from the top, but I realised the futility of the extra weight I had been carrying. On a trek, when energy and patience are running low, one hardly takes time to uncover the DSLR tucked tightly into an already stuffed trekking bag. In the end its only additional kilos that you’ll be carrying uphill on your back for hours.
- Work on your stamina before the trek: Even a 15 kilometre easy trek could be difficult in the last few hours. Even if you’re into heavy lifting or weight training, it’s important to train for a minimum of 2 weeks regularly, in order to have enough stamina to make it through a trek. For harder treks there are more rigorous training programmes, but no matter how easy the trek, you’re likely to regret skipping stamina building.
- Do not wear elevated sports shoes- they will shift the weight to your ankles, increasing the chances of you twisting or spraining your ankle. The right shoes are imperative for a trek, and because slippery slopes and uphill climbs come with uprooted stones and rocks, it is possible to step on a loose stone that could result in an ankle injury. I carried my gym trainers to the trek, and it was a mistake I realised halfway into my trek. With it’s slight heel, I was in danger of twisting my ankle at various times during the trek- but specially while crossing waterfalls.
- While coming downhill shift the balance to the back of your foot and not to the front of your foot. The way you position your foot is important. If you’re coming downhill and the step is thin or narrow, place your foot sideways. Try to keep your balance at the back of the foot in general. This will lesson the chances of falling head-first, and planting your heels in the mud will give you a foot hold to save you from falling head-first in case the terrain is slippery or covered in moss.