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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 hilltop.

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 traveling 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 postcard- 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 at 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 from that point on- I couldn’t care less about other people’s fitness levels -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 until 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.

Do:

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- definitely 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 losing 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.

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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 stick to your face and clogs your pores. do yourself a favor 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 flashlight 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 flashlight. preferably a headlamp like this one above. You can thank me later.

Don’t do:

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…

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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 lifetime for me. the cooliflower.

I am not a medical/health/emotional/financial /nutrition or any other kind of expert as far as it concerns the contents of this blog,  therefore anything written on the blog is not to be taken as any kind of advice, and should you choose to rely on anything  I write on this blog- you are doing it at your own risk and at your own responsibility.

Published by wiseassvegan

an organized full time working vegan -with plenty of ideas on getting everything done in the most simple and efficient way possible.

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