TREKKING – SOME TIPS
Drinking unboiled water can lead to several intestinal diseases because of bacteria and parasites. As far as possible one should take only boiled water.
In snow bound areas, one becomes prone to frost-bite which manifests itself by causing numbness and loss of sensation of the limbs due to exposure to cold. Wearing warm clothing, thick woolen socks, gloves, snowboots can prevent frost-bite. If frostbitten, warming one self by sitting too close to the fire can cause burns. Just sitting at a warm corner near the fire can bring sensation back to the affected areas. Severe cases of frost-bite can cause gangrene and require immediate medical attention.
The glare and dazzle of snow can cause snow-blindness or photophobia. To prevent snow-blindness it is essential to use dark goggles in areas which are covered with snow.
Mountain sickness is caused by lack of oxygen at the high altitudes. The symptoms are headache, mild nausea, lethargy, vomitting. If no precautions are taken, mountain sickness can develop into Pulmonary Edema the symptoms of which are dry cough, difficulty in breathing, gurgling sound from the chest, watery sputum and tiredness. The remedy is immediate descent to low altitudes.
To avoid mountain sickness one should avoid excessive exertion and walk steadily. It is advisable to get a couple of days acclimatization at lower altitudes before moving to higher zones. For instance for people normally residing in the plains, acclimatization by halting for a few days at a place about 2000 metres high before moving to higher altitudes. This permits the red blood corpuscles in the body to multiply themselves and make the body attuned for more oxygen intake in the rarefied air. The mouth should be kept closed while walking as it prevents cold air from directly getting into the lungs.
Plenty of water, lemon-juice and glucose should be taken. Cloves, cardamom,ginger, maize or garlic should be chewed while walking. Alcoholic drinks and smoking at high altitudes should be avoided as these exert the organs of the body.
Food should be taken in smaller quantity but more frequently. If difficulty in breathing is experienced at night, a high pillow may be kept beneath the shoulders so that the weight of the body is lifted off the chest and the respiratory movement remains unhampered.
While trekking up or down steep climbs maintain a distance of about 10 feet between the persons before and after you. Rocks and stones coming loose from the person walking ahead of you can cause injury. Worse if the person in front of you trips he may fall on you if a safe distance is not maintained resulting in two people getting injured instead of one. An umbrella that can double as a walking stick is a useful thing to carry. When trekking in marshy and wet ground areas a trouser in which the last section of the trouser can be detached should be worn This will prevent the trouser from getting dirty and wet. If trekking in leech infested areas wash your socks with salt water and let to dry a day before and then smear with tobacoo powder. Alternataively wear knee high gum-boots.
It you have to walk across a terrain strewn with rocks and stones or ford across a river ensure that you step only on stones that are big in size. Stepping on stones that are small in size may result in it moving and causing you to lose your balance.
While negotiating rough terrains, keep your arms free: do not carry anything in your hands as you may require them to hold on to a rock or a plant if you fall. Use a small ruckback slung on your back and properly tied to your body to carry your bottle of water, camera, etc. Do not set up toilet near stream
A polythene wrapper carelessly thrown out of the occasional vehicle can suffocate the soil making it permanently sterile – this is the extent of the sensitivity of the alpine area. It is heartening that the Government as a part of its scheme for Green Taxis has now taken steps to prevent littering in the alpine areas. Vehicles plying here are now required to carry garbage bags or dustbins and the passengers have to use these to put the litter. When the vehicle returns back to its base the litter from these bags is to be emptied into the garbage bins. Diesel and petrol fumes are another bane to the alpine areas. Because of the rarefied air the noxious gases spread over wide areas within no time peppering the landscape with poisonous sulphur and nitrogen chemicals. The government could perhaps consider allowing only CNG vehicles to operate in these pristine alpine areas. Use food items that do not require cooking. We must prevent irreversible effects on the environment and it is our – including the tourists- duty to preserve the natural heritage that Mother Nature has provided us. Forests are not just a collection of trees harbouring animals; they are our life support system providing oxygen to other living things on planet earth. We cannot afford forests to disappear from earth as this would ring the death knell for all mankind.
As far as possible, firewood should be avoided, even by trekkers, with an aim to protect the forests and as an alternative kerosene should be used. Litter should be removed and paper products burnt or buried. Non biodegradable wastes like plastics, used cans and bottles etc. should be packed and carried back home. It may cost you little more in terms of poterage charges but you will have the satisfaction that you have left back a clean environment.
While trekking in this area it is a good idea to hire a local porter who can double also as a guide. This will enable the trekker to move faster and also prevent losing the way in the mountains.
Long treks leave your legs aching badly particularly for those who are not used to walking. In fact in most cases the pain commences twenty four hours after you reach your destination. Called Delayed Onset muscle Soreness (DOMS) it is caused by microscopic tears in the muscles and lasts for a few days before subsidzing. Its severity can be mitigated by drinking lot of water and eating carbohydrate rich diet. Alternating hot shower with cold can improve blood supply. Resting and sleeping well also helps. In extreme cases, muscle relaxant ointments and intake of anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen can be resorted to.
Things to carry – a checklist
It can be quite a bad experience when in the midst of a long trek an essential item is found missing in your provision. I remember having forgotten to bring a match box on one of my treks and spent one full day without cooked food! The list given below spells out all the thinkable items required for a trek and would provide a good reference to check upon before embarking on the trail.
Food: Although tastes may vary from person to person, generally speaking the following is recommended.
- bread/buns • sugar • powdered or condensed milk • tea bags/coffee • butter • cheese spread • egg • baked beans • chocolates • jam • biscuits • water • lemons • glucose powder • brandy • dry fruits like cashew nuts/ raisins • fruit juice • Rice • dal (lentils) • refined oil/clarified butter • mustard oil • onions • potatoes • seasonal vegetables (cabbages, peas)
• tomatoes • salt & spices • turmeric • instant soup powder • fruits • precooked food like Paneer Butter massala • Sardines • Sausages
For personal use
- steel plate • steel glass • plastic water bottle • flask
For cooking and cleaning
ladle • swiss-knife • two or three cooking containers • pressure cooker • portable gas cylinder • small kerosene stove and kerosene • soap and scrubber • matchbox
LPG gas ovens do not burn effectively above 10,000 ft and at altitudes above 12,000 ft they are useless because of rarefied air. At high altitudes use kerosene pump stoves (Primus) instead.
Camping gear: It is advisable to carry the following- tent, sleeping bag, carry mat.