The Journey Begins
"Three months out"
Where do I start? Three months out from the start of the journey. Why you ask. Preparation, without which, your chances of success and an enjoyable trek are significantly diminished. Don’t think trekking at altitude is easy, it’s not. But it is very rewarding nevertheless. It’s an old cliché, but the more preparation you put in now, the bigger the payback in the end. So, start training well in advance.
How much training you need depends on many things, such as which trek you’ve picked and how active and fit you currently are. Of course, if you don’t indulge in exercise on a regular basis and pick a harder trek, you’ll need to start your training program earlier. Even if you are actively fit, you should try and get a few long walks in carrying a day pack. You’ll be surprised how a 3 hour walk works your legs differently to a 30 minute cycle in the gym or a 30 minute run! Try to pick a walk that takes you up and down hills; don’t make the mistake I did by training only on the flats. Within 30 minutes on the first day I felt the onset of a blister that followed me all trek, very painful indeed. It was all up hill on the first day, about 2 ½ hours of it!
I actively participate in sporting activities and am quite fit, but was carrying a tad too much weight, so I started about three months out from the start of trek. My training included walking home from work twice a week – about 2 ½ hours walking – wearing my (un-broken in) hiking boots, my trekking clothes, comprising zip-off pants and a nylon top, carrying my day pack, complete with dumbbell weights and water. Half way home on my first attempt blister attack. Damn all that sand on the beach. It got in between my toes and started working straight away. Nearing home after a little over 2 hours my legs started aching like you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t think I’d make it home but onwards I pressed and after a little under 3 hours, I’d made it.
Anyway, after a month or so, the aching legs disappeared, my time was reduced to around 2 ½ hours and it started to get enjoyable. A couple more weeks later my hiking boots were finally broken in. What a wonderful feeling that is.
My other training included my regular gym workout. This comprised a 20 minute intensive workout on the exercise bike followed by a weights workout. I also threw in the odd run or two.
Would I do anything different next time? Yes. I’d hit those hills and include some long walks up and down hills, just so the feet get used to the different contact with the boots.
You’ll probably need some, but if you’re like me you’ve probably had most of them already. Still, you need to check in with your travel doctor and get some advice. Some of these need to be started a few weeks out, so the earlier you go the better.
You’ve probably also heard of Diamox. This can help with altitude. I don’t plan on giving any advice here. That’s best left to your doctor, but I didn’t take any on my trek. I did bring them along though, just in case.
"D ‘for departure’ day"
I have based this travelogue on my personal diary of the trip, so am writing this travelogue in the same way. Hope you don’t mind.
Well, my pack’s weighed in at a healthy 15kgs. As I’m going during winter, I’ve had to pack all my bulky winter gear. It’s amazing at how quickly it all adds up. Still, I’d rather be warm than freezing on the side of a hill.
21-Jan, around midnight, Melbourne airport: Here I am at Melbourne airport. I fly out in less than an hour, bound for Singapore, then on to Katmandu. I should arrive in Singapore at 5:15am (7:15am Melbourne time). Today reached around 40C in Melbourne, kinda hot, wet and sticky. Trying to keep my fluids up, plane travel tends to dry you out a little. It seems like everyone is flying to Singapore. [As it turned out, this couple I saw at check-in was bound for my same trek. They stood out with their wire mesh covered backpacks. They also noticed me with my walking sticks. Small world, eh.]
22-Jan, 6am, Changi airport, Singapore: Half way there. My flight to Katmandu leaves at 9am. Just had a shower for 5.15 Singapore dollars and now feel a million dollars. Must remember this for next time and must remember to bring a change of clothes. I’ve now been up for over 24 hours and am feeling a little weary. Hmmm, I think I may have under-packed with only two t-shirts, one trakkie dacks and one zip-off pants. [I survived just fine. In fact, I never wore one of the t-shirts!] I hope I didn’t make a mistake listening to the guy in Bogong by buying cheap nylon overpants rather than goretex. Time will tell. [I was a little sick of spending money at that stage, so spent 40 Aussie dollars on these cheap overpants. They did the trick.] It’s 26C and humid and it’s only 6am in the morning. These synthetic zip-offs sure do keep you cool. Glad I spent the extra money and bought them. I wonder how they’ll be on trek though, it’s gunna be cold.
"I’m here, woo hoo"
22-Jan, 9:40pm, Shanker Hotel, Katmandu: Taking daylight savings into account and the time difference, I’ve been up for 43 hours. I’m off to bed! I will fill in today’s events tomorrow.
23-Jan, 7:40am, Shanker Hotel, Katmandu: Just had my first night in Katmandu. Slept from 10pm till 4am then dozed in and out. Anyway, time to reflect on yesterday’s events.
Landing at Katmandu airport: I was lucky enough to sit on the right side of the plane, although on an aisle seat. I got the most amazing view of the Himalayas while approaching Katmandu. The range seems to go on and on. From a distance we thought they were clouds but as we got closer, we realized they were the mountains. Wow. As we got closer, we did this slow, wide turn, it felt as though we weren’t moving. The approach was spectacular, sort of reminds me of the old Hong Kong airport, only better. We’ve got the mountains, the slummy looking houses below, people bathing and washing, whatever, in the local brown, probably polluted water.
[Don’t forget to plan you seat and make sure you book it well in advance. From Australia you sit on the right hand side of the plane; try for a window seat. You’ll be graced with an awe inspiring view of the Himalayas.]
Katmandu airport: Talk about a step back in time. People milling around the tarmac, doing whatever. You’d never see that in Melbourne. We disembarked on one of those ‘wheel up’ jobs and then wandered towards one of the oldest international terminals I’ve seen. You should’ve seen the duty free. It was one of the smallest I’ve seen; quite a funny sight. They also have this sign listing the restricted items. Have you ever heard of a prambulator. Neither had I. [I looked it up in a dictionary when I got home. It’s a pram!] Luckily I got a visa from home. I joined that queue and was through in no time.
You should see all the touts outside. I told them I was with Peregrine and they let me by.