A year before I turned 50, I read somewhere that a good way to find out what your true dreams are- is to sit in front of a paper- and instinctively draw the first thing that comes to your mind- when thinking about things you wish to achieve.
so I sat down one day, and drew the first thing that came up when thinking of turning 50.
It was a (lame) drawing of a person with a backpack, standing on a hill top.
Then I remembered I made a list a few years ago, named :”things I want to achieve before turning 50″.
I found that list (yes- it is very helpful to be organized and constantly strive towards minimalism), and on that list, sure enough, was a paragraph stating :”take a trip outside of my comfort zone”.
It also said- “learn spanish”, “learn italian”,”learn how to play the guitar ” and “learn how to professionally cook vegan food”.(still working on those..)
This was the beginning of my journey towards the third and final gift I gave myself for my 50th birthday. (here is a link to the previous posts telling all about the first 2 presents I gave myself-and why I decided that giving myself those birthday presents was such a great idea: The birthday presents I gave myself-part 1, The second birthday present I gave myself. (part 2) ).
So I contacted “Ninos De Guatemala”, a non government organization (NGO) in guatemala , and booked tickets through Klm , started learning spanish with Duolingo , and learned all I could online about travelling light.
But this post is about hiking tips for beginners like me, and I believe that a true and genuine beginner has the best tips- since we know exactly what a fellow beginner feels and what are the obstacles to handle-and how to tackle them .
The picture above- the one that looks like a post card- is a picture I took of the Fuego volcano in guatemala. an active volcano, rising to more than 4000 meters high. (very high).
I can tell you that I was very nervous before the 2 day hike (actually- this is an understatement), and that it didn’t help that on the group meeting the evening before the hike, I found out that 95% of the group were around their 20’s, fit , ambitious, and had lots of prior experience hiking in high altitude…….
But- at the end of the hike I felt as if I conquered the world, and since that point on- I couldn’t care less about other people’s fitness level -or youth.
I found out that all my swimming-running-yoga was a great way to be in shape, not only did I keep up with the rest of the group, but I decided strategically that I have to be as close to the guide in the front as possible- in case I get altitude sickness .
I was third or fourth from the guide the whole time, which turned out to be a great decision- I had much more rest time than the people who were the last in line-think about it- at every stop the guide would wait untill the last person arrived, and a minute or 2 later- we started climbing again. the poor person in the back had almost no rest time, whereas I had plenty of time to drink water, eat a small snack, and enjoy the hike.
Now for the promised “Do’s and don’ts”:
* I may be stating the obvious here- but this is as I said a demanding hike. please make sure you are fit enough and in good health to do it! consult with proffesionals- I am not one- just giving some advice here. use your brain when deciding if this adventure is for you or not.
*I believe a good trial hike for you would be the pacaya volcano hike.a pleasant half day hike that doesn’t involve arranging any gear or carrying a heavy backpack. water and some snacks will be enough. the pacaya is considerably easier than the acatenango (our guide said that the acatenanago is considered 6 times more difficult than the pacaya) so if you find that pacaya is too much for you- don’t even think about acatenango….. still-even if pacaya is easy for you- the acatenango may be a difficult challenge so -use your brain.
1. hike with a good tour company.
This is quite a difficult hike, in high altitudes (summit almost 4000 meters), it gets very cold at night up there (can reach 0 degrees celsius) and you need good gear and a good guide to handle this.
I needed almost everything- from a sleeping bag-sleeping mat- to backpack-overcoat-gloves- flashlight- hat.
the difference between going with the company I went with -that rent me all the gear for free, and other companies that charge for renting the gear, was at first- double the amount , but after calculating the rent cost- there was almost no difference in price- so take the gear situation into consideration when deciding which company to use.
Under no circumstances should you try to do this hike alone- defenitely if you are a beginner. this is my opinion- and I am not receiving a commission from any guides so please consider it a fair warning.
Last year 6 hikers were found dead after loosing their way up on the mountain in the freezing cold night.
2. Pack lightly.
pack only bare necessities.
this means water– I had 4.5 liters and drank another liter at my homestay in the morning, and another liter once we came back.
snacks– nuts, raisins, bananas, apples, that is what I had and it was great.
a small-sized facial cream with high spf, the smallest and lightest face towel with a few drops of soap already on it- so you can just put a few drops of water and scrub your face and upper body in the evening .in my experience- this is a necessity: the hike is mostly in volcanic ashes that sticks to your face and clogs your pores. do yourself a favour and scrub your face with a towel and a few drops of water.
3.Hydrate properly the day before:
A tip I got from the tour agency I hiked with- to prevent altitude sickness it is very important to hydrate throughout the hike- but equally important is to hydrate properly on the day prior to the hike! * I know many long distance runners know that fueling and hydrating the days before the race is sometimes even more important than race day itself.
4. dont forget to rent a walking stick from the cute kids at the starting point.
The sticks are only 5Q and you won’t regret taking one…it was helpful both on the slippery way up- and on the even more slippery- way down….
5. clip your toenails.
I am trying to remember where I read this tip- but it’s a good one. going down the second day you happen to spend quite a lot of time on your toes- that’s what the elevation does to you. you won’t regret this one either…
6 .take a flashlight and spare batteries.the climb up the summit is done at 4 in the morning, pitch dark.no kidding. The flash light the company gave me suddenly stopped working and this hike in the dark was one of the scariest Things I have ever done.
just take a flash light.preferably a head lamp like this one above. You can thank me later.
1.Don’t spend your whole hike taking pictures. I don’t think any of your friends- not even your family would appreciate looking at 50,000 pictures of the same volcano -even if it was taken from slightly different angles…try to enjoy the beautiful jungle you are in- and this unique experience of watching a volcano erupt in front of you every 15 minutes…
2. don’t schedule anything exhausting for that evening or even the day (or two..) after. I was exhausted for a few days after the hike- but felt exhilarated!
enjoy- this was a hike of a life time for me. the cooliflower.