When people think about trekking they start thinking about far away lands. Trekking is one of the most popular activities of the adventure travel industry that is expanding all the time as the number of retired people with disposable income increases. More adventures are available now than ever before!
The Everest Base Camp comes to mind as one of the treks that most hikers often aspire to. The thought of seeing Mount Everest in person up close is almost too much to exist. Why is “trekking” different from “hiking”? The word trekking implies a greater distance with more logistics in a place that is far away from your home land. Treks are usually of multi day duration usually 7 to 10 days in length. Because of the distance, the use of pack animals such as lamas or mules might be needed to carry supplies.
In some countries such as Nepal and Africa, the use of porters is acceptable. The trekking business that involves trekking companies with guides and porters and other support staff such as bus drivers and quarter masters becomes an important part of some foreign economies. I was surprised that even in the Alps the tradition of the mountain guide is very much alive. The guiding company might have vans to supply guests with transportation to trail heads and support the trek while it is moving through the mountains. The van with it driver will meet the trekking group as it reaches the days milestone usually at a trailhead that is close to a mountain hut or lodge where the group can stay for the night. The following morning, the process goes in reverse with the guide having breakfast with his clients. The van is used to transport the guests to the trailhead for the next days hike to the next milestone where the process is repeated.
In more remote parts of the world such as Nepal. The guide is in charge of a group of assistant guides plus porters who carry the “luggage” of the clients on the trek. The luggage is really what the client would carry if they were hiking back home such as sleeping bag, extra clothing, toiletries and miscellaneous things that anyone would carry during an extended multi day hike in the states. In the case of Nepal, we are naturally concerned about high altitude and how it might effect clients who might live at sea level.
The guide is well versed with the different medical problems that might occur with altitude. Light headiness, nausea, weakness and head ache. Sometimes the only remedy is to descend to a lower altitude or to stay at the same altitude until the person feels better. This might occur after a good nights sleep. Sometimes some medications such as aspirin or in more serious cases a stronger medication may be used to reduce the symptoms. In extreme cases, the person who is really sick with altitude sickness must be escorted down to a lower altitude with a porter who can then bring them pack up to join the main group after he symptoms have come under control.
But logistics and the effects of altitude are just a few of the problems that occur in trekking in far off lands! How about just getting to the trekking area? There are airplane strikes and airports are shut down. In a recent trip to Argentina, the airport was closed by riots for three days. We were going to take a bus to the trekking trailhead to meet our guides but even the buses were full. We did find a bus but it was so full we had to sit over the rear wheel well. The trip would be 36 straight hours–too much for my body I can assure you! So, we went back to our hotel and waited one more day. The demonstrations ended with government intervention and we flew to our trailhead and met our guides. After a four hike in the rain at 10,000 ft. We met our fellow trekkers at base camp. The rain did continue for days on end. But we were prepared with full Gortex rain gear and it was worth every penny. So, political instability and weather almost derailed a whole trip. We also always have travelers insurance. This really came in handy when we ran into a similar situation in Thailand when government protesters closed the international airport. We were stuck in Bankcock for seven days but at least we were comfortable and we finally got the benefits of our travelers insurance that we always paid for but never used until then.
Trekking in far off lands can be a thrilling adventure. But some pre trip planning goes a long ways. Read up on your destination. Knowledge of the language and the customs is good to have. Getting your medical check up, getting visas and passports will smooth the way. Just getting to your trekking trailhead may be an adventure entirely into itself. Don’t forget your travel insurance–one day you might need it!