Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category

Long Distance Thru Hiking – my top 3 gear picks

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One of the great long distance hiking trails in Australia is fortuitously located right here in Western Australia.  The wonderful Bibbulmun Track is a 1000 km long track that starts in Perth and finishes in Albany.   I have completed thru-hikes of this wonderful trail twice now.  End to end in around 50 days.  It’s a long way!

For both of these epic trips I carried everything I needed.   Food (generally restocking every 5 to 7 days), shelter (tent) and clothing.  It is a very liberating experience being completely self contained, and having everything you need on your back.

Can’t do without these three faves!

One of the things that these long distance walks teaches you is the kind of gear that works best for you.  I thought I would share my “Top 3” picks from this last 1000 km hike.

  1.  Thermarest – Neo Air:  Getting a good nights sleep on the trail is pretty important.  For me, the investment in a quality sleeping mattress is paramount.   The Neo-Air is lightweight and packs down to the size of a 1 litre water bottle.  This is my go to mattress for all my overnight hiking adventures.  I have had a number of Thermarest mattresses over the years, and I have always been impressed with how well made they are.
  2. Sea to Summit – Inflatable Pillow: Just as a great mattress makes for a good night’s sleep, so too does a pillow for me.  I am a notoriously light sleeper, and if I don’t have a comfy neck supported pillow, I don’t get a wink.  Love this pillow.  Not only does it come with me on all my overnight hikes, it is lightweight, packs down to the size of my fist, and also serves as a back cushion on long haul plane rides.
  3. Icebreaker soft shell:  Staying warm when I am at camp is one of the surest ways of making sure I stay a “happy camper” week after week.  I wear a lot of Icebreaker clothing;  I love the durability, warmth to weight ratio, the fact it doesn’t stink like synthetics, etc…  there is a lot I love about Icebreaker, but my “Merino Loft” soft shell really is the bee’s knees.  Packs down well, has great warmth, will withstand a rain shower, and has a hood which I love.

Obviously there is heaps more gear that I use that is absolutely necessary.  But these Top 3 picks are the ones that really stood out for me on this hike.  I’d love to hear what kind of gear you can’t do without when you are out on the trail!

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Written by Mar(k)

April 10, 2018 at 10:38 pm

Hiking tips for South Korea

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Some of the most enjoyable time we spent, during our month in South Korea was in some of the absolutely beautiful National Parks.  Not only were there some fantastic hiking trails, but invariably they were also a place to see some well preserved Korean temples.  Given that many of the mountains in South Korea are sacred, having a temple there dedicated to worshipping the mountain makes good sense.   It was a great way to get some cultural sightseeing done, while also enjoying Mother Nature’s wonderland.

South Korea surely must win the award for the most well maintained hiking trails in the world!   Wow.  We were sooo impressed!   But it kind of makes sense, when you see how wildly popular hiking is with the locals.  There are a LOT of people on the trails.

We weren’t the only ones on top of South Korea’s highest peak!

To help you out, here are a few tips which may assist in making the most of your hiking time in South Korea:

  • It is a bit difficulty to find details hiking info in English.  One place you can try is through the National Park site.
  • Whilst online information in English is a bit of a challenge, once you are at the trailheads, we (almost) always found signage in English.   So don’t worry!   (tip: take a photo with your phone of the map at the trailhead, as there is not often any other maps along the route, although there will be ample markers)
  • The trails are incredibly well maintained, and well signposted.  On steeper sections, the concept of switchbacks seems to be largely overlooked, but there are often steps put in.  Fantastic workout for the glutes and quads, that’s for sure!
  • Water is readily available on the trails (well, at least on all the trails we were on, and there were a few!).  Lots of the temples have water “fountains” which you can fill up at, as well.
  • Bring along some snacks to share.  South Koreans love to share some food at the top.  Sliced up apple, biscuits, chocolate or dried fruit are always a favourite.
  • Don’t be too put off by the level of difficulty of hikes.  We were originally quite intimidated by the hikers we saw coming down from trails, kitted out like they were ready for Everest!   Hiking poles, mountaineering boots, gaiters, quick dry from tip to tow, hats, the lot!   Then when we would actually get onto these incredibly well groomed trails, it was more than do-able.  But South Koreas take their hiking seriously, and need to look the part!
  • Per the above, we absolutely LOVED how colourful everyone is!  Because hiking is taken so seriously, even the casual day hiker has the full on gear.  We paled into insignificance with our drab greys, blacks and muted tones.  Bright yellow, pink, green and purple was definitely de rigueur, often worn all at once!
  • Some other blogs that have some good info on hikes can be found here and here.

Enjoy!

Written by Mar(k)

July 31, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Off on a 1000 km hiking adventure

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I am passionate about two things:  high altitude trekking, and long distance backpacking.   In the latter, there is something hugely satisfying for me about being completely self reliant.  Everything I need,  I carry with me.   Tent, food, stove, fuel, sleeping bag, water.   Not only do I look like a snail (with my home on my back), but I also feel like one, crawling up those hills!   I have recently started my second “end to end” on the 1000 km, long distance walking trail in Western Australia called the Bibbulmun Track.   You can find out more about the trail here.

One foot in front of the other!

One foot in front of the other!

I am going to be doing this trek solo, and I anticipate it will take me 51 hiking days (60 days total, including my rest days) to complete.   My average daily distance covered will be 20 km, and my packed weighed in at 22.22 kg when I started.   A light weight hiker I am not!

It occurs to me that to succeed in any sport, there is a degree of physical fitness required, and overall, that fitness is relatively easy to come by.   But it seems to me that the thing that can make or break lots of epic adventures is the mental toughness that is required.   I would say that succeeding on this kind of adventure is probably 20% fitness, and 80% mental.  It’s harder than it looks!  But the body can keep going long after you think it is finished, if you have the mental toughness.   I am fortunate to know a few athletes and adventurers who have done some truly amazing things – far more adventurous than my wee walk.   And the one common denominator that they all seem to have is that mental toughness.

For now, it is one foot in front of the other!   The thing that guides me are these trail markers – called “waugals”.  They represent the Rainbow Serpent from the Aboriginal Dreamtime (they are NOT snake warning signs!), and trust me – they are my friend out there.   They keep me going in the right direction, and I am always on the lookout for them.   When you hike for hours and hours by yourself, you can get lost in thought, and miss a turnoff on the trail.   So I try to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for these markers.   (mind you, having a good map, compass and the ability to use them also helps if you do come off the trail)

Written by Mar(k)

September 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm