When people think of trekking, they start to think of distant lands. Trekking is one of the most popular activities of the adventure travel industry that is growing as the number of retirees with disposable income increases. There are now more adventures available than ever before!
The Everest Base Camp comes to mind as one of the treks most hikers often strive for. The thought of seeing Mount Everest up close is almost too much to bear. Why is “trekking” different from “hiking”? The word trekking implies greater distance with more logistics in a place far away from your home country. Treks usually last several days, usually 7 to 10 days. Due to the distance, the use of pack animals such as llamas or mules may be necessary to transport supplies.
In some countries, such as Nepal and Africa, the use of carriers is acceptable. The trekking business involving trekking companies with guides and porters and other support personnel such as bus drivers and quartermasters is becoming an important part of some foreign economies. I was surprised that even in the Alps the tradition of the mountain guide is still very much alive. The accompanying company may have vans to provide guests with transportation to trailheads and support the trek as it travels through the mountains. The van with its driver will meet the trekking group when it reaches the day’s milestone, usually at a trailhead that is close to a mountain cabin or lodge where the group can stay overnight. The next morning the process is reversed: the guide has breakfast with his customers. The van is used to transport the guests to the trailhead for the next day’s 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 customer would carry if they were walking home, such as sleeping bag, extra clothes, toiletries and miscellaneous things that anyone would carry on an extended multi-day hike in the United States. In the case of Nepal, we are of course concerned about high altitude and how it could affect customers who may live at sea level.
The guide is well aware of the various medical problems that can occur at height. Mild headache, nausea, weakness and headache. Sometimes the only remedy is to descend to a lower altitude or stay at the same altitude until the person feels better. This can happen after a good night’s sleep. Sometimes some medications such as aspirin or in more severe cases a stronger drug can be used to reduce symptoms. In extreme cases, the person who is truly altitude sick must be escorted to a lower altitude with a carrier who can then pack them up to join the main group after the symptoms are controlled.
But logistics and the effects of altitude are just some of the problems encountered when trekking in distant lands! How about just going to the trekking area? There are plane attacks and airports are closed. During a recent trip to Argentina, the airport was closed for three days due to riots. We were supposed 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 that we had to sit over the rear wheel. The journey would take 36 hours straight – too much for my body, I can assure you! So we went back to our hotel and waited another day. The demonstrations ended with government intervention and we flew to our trailhead and met our guides. After a walk of four in the rain at 10,000 ft. We met our fellow trekkers at the base camp. The rain continued for days on end. But we were prepared with full Gortex rain gear and it was worth every penny. So political instability and the weather almost derailed an entire trip. We also always have travel insurance. This really came in handy when we encountered a similar situation in Thailand when government protesters closed the international airport. We were stuck in Bankcock for seven days, but at least we felt comfortable and finally got the benefits of our traveler insurance that we always paid for but never used until then.
Trekking in distant lands can be an exciting adventure. But some pre-trip planning goes a long way. Enter your destination. Knowledge of the language and the customs is good to have. Getting your medical exam, getting visas and passports will pave the way. Just reaching your trekking trailhead can be an adventure in itself. Don’t forget your travel insurance – you may need it one day!