Are you ready for that dream trip, I mean REALLY ready? Whether it’s discovering new cities on foot, cycling through the countryside, careering down rapids or trekking monumental hills and peaks, most soft – and hard – holiday adventures require preparation and a general level of fitness for you to get the most out the experience.
The starting point for most is to decide on holiday activities that you enjoy doing with a partner, friends or family. Secondly, assess what’s required – personal research, chat rooms, harvesting previous experiences from friends or colleagues – and then it’s all in the preparation…..
Readying for Take-Off
Flying in itself can be a physically exhausting affair leaving you done-in for days and eating into your well-planned adventure. Sleep is your friend so bank as many ‘zeds’ as you can with early nights the week prior to departure. Traveling from Australia makes every destination a long-haul flight so break the trip by spending a night or two at your first port-of-call before heading for your final destination. Travel insurance is a basic essential but prevention is better than dealing with an issue that may have been avoided before leaving so book a health check with your GP, especially on the more adventurous of the itineraries you may be undertaking to ensure you’re physically able to “live the dream”.
Taking the High Ground
Preparation for walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Incan citadel perched high in the Andes Mountains of Peru was a serious affair for Melbourne fire fighter Shane Gore. “We wanted to get the most pleasure out of the trip and not be crippled by the undertaking. I am a fit person but even so the climb was something that was prolonged and walking for hours on end each day, up uneven terrain plus steps and then having to do it all again the next day. My brother and I did months of research on internet forums chatting to others who’d done it and I realised that in order to enjoy the 4 days , preparation was the key” he said.
Four months out, and not regarding Machu Picchu as a doddle, he began conditioning to the adventure on weekends and sometimes after work, building up doing 4-hour sessions on steps carrying a 20 kilo backpack, breaking his hiking boots in at the same time. Each person had to carry all their own personal gear in their back packs and the maximum allowance was 20kg. You had to remember that the trekking was up to 6 hours a day. “It was amazing how some turned up to do the trek with brand new boots, low fitness levels and no preparation at all.
Needless to say, they found their ‘trip of a lifetime’ extremely arduous,” said Shane who with his brother breezed through the four days. At times people were really struggling and arriving hours after the camp had been set up, totally exhausted. Next day they would have difficulty right from the start. It was obvious they weren’t enjoying the experience. In addition arriving a couple of days beforehand allowed acclimatisation to high altitude, another important part of their preparation. ” This was something else people didn’t factor into the trek and suffered from dificulties associated with altitude – so be careful and prepare. Also, just the preparation may give you an idea of your capabilities and believe me people over-estimate what they can do from the lounge chair. It may lead you to changing plans and taking the train up instead – so test yourself and good luck .” said Shane
Highlight: watching the sun rise at Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate and completing the trek and feeling great about it.
Low light: should have packed a pair of thongs to give feet a rest from hiking boots when resting in camp!!
We often venture into Sabah’s, Borneo’s steamy, tropical jungle rain forests where, without proper preparation, the combination of high humidity, heat and exertion can leave you wrung out and at worst in hospital. Jungle trekking, often a squelchy, muddy affair, can be replicated by walking in soft sand along the beachfront and with up to 3 changes of tops a day, we only pack lightweight, quick drying performance clothing, well-worn-in boots and broad-brimmed hats.
Replicating this environment is difficult if you don’t come from a similar setting but I have found sitting in a steam room in the lead-up period helps acclimatisation. Most importantly it also makes you acutely aware of the need to hydrate. Consistent water is an essential ingredient in combating heat fatigue which, in extremely humid climates, has the potential knock you over while just sitting in any non air-conditioned space. Strenuous exercise in hot conditions can lead to water loss of up to two litres per hour through sweat. If you sweat more than two per cent of your body weight your heart is placed under stress, your body temperature goes up, and your physical and mental performance declines, so it’s important to replace lost water during exercise. In general activity in heat and humidity for extended periods it may be sensible to augment this intake with isotonic drinks like the sports type electrolyte replacement fluids.
The sugar and salt in sports drinks are at the right concentrations to maximise the speed with which water moves from your gut into your bloodstream. However, for endurance activities, sodium losses are a more serious issue: low sodium levels often coupled with excessive water consumption have caused more than a few deaths among athletes, hikers, military personnel and people undertaking strenuous activities over long periods of time in hot conditions .Remember to use a water filter, purification tablets, or boiled water. Never trust water in a stream or river is safe to drink!
The sense of thirst is slow to react to dehydration, so if you’re exercising hard in hot conditions it’s a good idea to drink before you become thirsty. In fact you need to drink before, during and after exercise.
Highlight : Finishing the day with a long glass of freshly squeezed pineapple juice at Sepilok Nature Resort, Sabah , Borneo.
Low light: Every day’s a bad hair day…..
Bums on Seats
Whether hiking, skiing or cycling, Rosanne and her husband David love taking active holidays together. “Cycling is a great way to see the countryside, gain some fitness and have fun with other like-minded people,” says Rosanne. Next up is a 19-day, self guided group cycle tour of the UK from Lands End to John O’Groats. Fortunately, the tour leader takes the bags each day and riders set off armed with a GPS to get to the next bed by evening. Covering an average distance of 100 km each day, Rosanne and David’s impressive cycling history gives them a good base fitness level that includes riding in the Great Victorian Bike Ride. Now just 8 weeks from departure, they’ve upped their cycling regime but it’s not just the leg muscles that are in training. “The main issue is coping with sitting on a bike seat for hours and the only way to acclimatise is to literally sit on a bike seat for hours and hope that somehow, it becomes less painful,” says Rosanne.
Highlight : Intimate glimpses of everyday life on roads less traveled.
Low light : Falling in love with a place knowing you’re leaving the next morning.
Electric-assisted bikes are being sensibly deployed by another couple for a 6-hour cycle around the Ancient Appian Way. “We thought it a prudent precaution as we don’t ride our manual bikes more than an hour at a time at home,” said Pamela who with husband Allan will also be embarking on a Sardinian walking tour trekking up to 14 kms a day. So how to prepare? “Our preparation includes plenty of eating and drinking to take care of the leisure activities and for the active component, we are trialing riding electric bikes and upping our usual suburban walks to include walking in our hiking boots over different terrain for longer periods of time.
“While it’s vital to find out what to expect and prepare accordingly, be realistic about your capabilities. If you don’t walk regularly at home, then you’re not going to suddenly be able to handle walking overseas. Don’t forget, on a walking holiday you will be walking virtually every day so add this aspect into your training. Think about your footwear and take a couple of options (eg boots, and sneakers) and make sure you have broken them in WELL BEFORE you go,” advises Pamela.
In other words: know your limitations AND BE PREPARED !!
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