For newcomers to hiking, try this one in BC

New readers to this blog may get disheartened about seeing info of exotic places like, Katmandu, Nepal, etc etc.

I do realise that many of you will be thinking of emarking on your very first hiking or walking trip locally, so what you will need is advice about trips you can undertake rather more close to home!

Today, I want to talk a little about a very good area in British Columbia, Canada.

It’s called Manning Park, and is located about 150 miles and 3 hours across from Vancouver city, and about 40 miles from the town of Princeton. Here’s the exact address if you’re using SatNav in your car:

7500 Crowsnest Highway
Manning Park, BC V0X 1R0
Although Manning Park has been now developed as a resort destination, it still has vast areas that are free of people congestion and can help you develop your hiking and walking skills, before you jump in at the deep end with larger, more specialised hikes.
You can go at virtually any time of the year, as each season is catered for there….there is alpine skiing in winter, snow-shoeing in the spring, camping and hiking in summer, fishing, hiking and boating in the autumn.
Camping sites are also available, with hook-ups to septic, electric, etc.

If you want accommodation, that’s also provided. As an example, for a Queen sized room, the cost is US$144 per person in February to around $90 in August.

Hostelling is another option with 9 rooms offering single and double beds, at a rate of $30 a night per person.

If fine dining is your forte, that is also covered by a range of options.

All in all, an excellent destination for an easy and safe start to your hiking and walking future.

For your next trip to India, try these guys…

 

Planning any trip can be daunting. Planning a trip to the East, doubly so!

Even though english is widely spoken and understood, there are certain nuances and subtle ways of communicating that we in the west are not familiar with. So by all means, if you want the headache of arranging everything yourself, or prefer it that way, it can be done.

Myself, during all the trips I have made to India and the Far East, I have used only one firm, which I’m going to tell you about now.

Not only can they offer ready-made treks and trips, but if you want a specifically tailored one, they are more than happy to do that for you. I normally prefer to have a package set up, but with the option of walking away on my own and getting back to the organizers for the flight back home.

The company is Royal Rajasthan Tours, and despite the name, they cover more than just Rajasthan. I have asked them to arrange tours for myself and my hiking party in Ladakh, Nepal, Tibet and also as far as China and Japan.

Apart from me recommending them they must be doing something right, as www.traveladvisor.com have also recommended them.

Theirs is the only company I know where the Director sometimes travels with a tour! Apart from the rather novel idea, having the Director travelling with you instills a certain amount of peace of mind, showing customers that if the owner is also travelling with them, then he must be confident of their ability to deliver.

I’ve used them so many times, and recommended countless friends and colleagues of mine, that I know both the Directors by name. My initial contact has always been Jag Suman…he takes care of tours for customers from the USA/Canada and Europe, whilst Bhupendar Singh has the responsibility of running the tours themselves. Both guys are very friendly and can speak a number of languages aside of english.

If money is no problem, you can opt for the 5 star tours, which include a personal pick up from Delhi International airport by their very own classically dressed drivers and chaperones, by limousine, direct to your chosen 5 star hotel!

If you’re on a budget like me, that’s no problem either. They arrange everything.

Next time, give them a try.

 

Day I met a mysterious gentleman on my hike…..

An east Indian guy I met on one of my hikes said something very typically mystical when we got talking and sharing a cup of coffee…

He said it in his language, but I never got it first time, so he wrote it down for me in english parlance…..”Kis kadar khoob surat hai, tere deedar ki duniya…Meri nazron ki janat hai, zulfo rusaar ki duniya”

It sounded so magical, mystical and from another world, another existence even. And it’s really weird, but he had a kind of far-away look in his eyes, as if he was looking way into the future, not the present.

Of course, aside of what the words sounded like, I wanted to know what they meant. I asked him to tell me, but he looked at me and my partners, smiled and said someone will come to tell you what they mean soon….and with that, he thanked us for the coffee, and walked away!

We were left flummoxed! Who was he? Why did he seem so aloof to us? And most of all, what was he doing in the middle of nowhere, with no back-pack of other means of shelter, food or water with him? He was dressed in western clothing…pants, jacket, toque, etc but was carrying nothing else. Strange!

After a while, we voted to walk in the direction he went, so that we could give him some of our food, water etc to help him, but after walking 2 hours, we could find no trace of him at all.

A few days later when we had finished our hike, we got to the local town and reported to the police there about a guy who just appeared out of nowhere and walked away without trace too. They said nobody had been reported missing so although they’d take note, they would not be taking any action, which is fair enough I suppose.

And what of those words? I know you’ll think this is a bit cheesy, but I was sitting in my local library when a dude came and sat on the same table opposite me, said hello and asked about the book I was reading, about hiking of course!

I asked him if he was local and he said yes, he was doing some research at a university nearby into….get this…east indian languages! Remembering what that indian guy on the hike had said, I pulled out a ragged piece of paper and asked this dude if he knew what it was. He said yes of course…it was Urdu and then and there explained the meanings word by word! Here’s what he said:

Kis kadar khoob surat hai, tere deedar ki duniya…Meri nazron ki janat hai, zulfo rukhsaar ki duniya…

“Immeasurably beautiful is the world your eyes see..

My eyes search for paradise in your hair and countenance…”

I was still puzzled by this translation (this guy was Caucasian, so could he have got it all wrong I thought!), so I asked him to explain what it meant. And he explained that the words can have different meanings depending upon when, where, how and to whom they are said!

I told him where we met him and what we were doing at the time, hiking etc. So he said in that case, the words were uttered as an attempt to explain the beauty of Nature, of the Creator who created the wilderness we were in. That sounded right, and would explain the far-away look in the guy’s eyes we saw. Perhaps the guy was looking for some kind of Truth in the wilderness? I don’t know.

Synchronicity? Coincidence? Magic? You tell me!

Shows you get to experience all kinds of stuff out walking or hiking in the mountains!

A little about Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Vancouver, BC

A lot of readers have emailed me to ask am I linked in some devious way to MEC, the mountain equipment company!

I did mention this at the very beginning of my blog here that the only reason I endorse products that are carried by MEC is because I use their store regularly, and it is through doing this that I have learnt what a great place it is. saying that, I guess it would be kind of nice if they paid me something everytime I mentioned them, but that’s not the point of this blog!

The whole point of this blog is to endorse stuff from any supplier, and MEC currently are at the top of my list for supplies, service and customer satisfaction……numero uno! Why? Read on…..

Let’s face it, we’ve all been to stores, not necessarily mountain supply stores, but any retail establishment basically. You walk in the door, browse around a little, see some of the store Staff mooching about behind the counter, hoping that one will walk over to you and ask if you need any help, right?

So you wait and wait…and wait a little more, but nobody comes. It’s around that time when you start worrying maybe you have some incurable disease, so that’s why they won’t come anywhere near you?

Well, I’ve seen that so many times, it’s beyond counting. Cut a long story short, you will never, ever get that at MEC, period.

All of the time I’ve been there, there has always been at least one, if not more, attentive member of Staff who will come over and ask politely if you need any help, and if so, would you mind if he/she helped you make your mind up.

And yes, I know what you’re going to say next….do they tag along with you all through the store as well, with you wishing that they’d leave you alone?!

No, their Staff are so well trained, they know exactly when the customer needs to be left alone to browse further, and once they’ve shown you whatever you professed an interest in, they walk away, giving you the option of asking them if you need any more help later.

Now, isn’t that something? Tell me which other store you get that? It’s getting rarer than hen’s teeth, I tell you!

That’s what swung it for me. The first time I went into MEC, I was greeted and virtually chaperoned along, and when I asked about a particular item of mountain gear, the guy who told me about it was extremely knowledgeable, and I knew that this man is a seasoned mountain guy, from the way he was talking. Certainly his spiel was exemplary. And I found that MEC Staff tend to be experienced in many different disciplines, too…..if you’re a walker, there’ll be somebody specialising in that….ifyou’re high altitude climber, there will be someone there who is one, too…..if you’re a cyclist, yep, there will be a cyclist member of Staff. How can you not be impressed by that?

So for this new year, while I plan where and which walks I will be going on, all my supplies will be coming from MEC for sure. That’s not to say there won’t be a mention of other places, no…..let’s be fair, there are other stores around, too and a selection of the best ones deserve a mention throughout this blog.

Where do I plan on going? Well, this year, I’m going to be a stick-in-the-mud as they say in England! By that, they mean a person who generally stays within his comfort zone! And my comfort zone happens to be BC for this year, so it will be a selection of walks in BC, perhaps one or two in the Yukon, too. Keep it here!

What are my hiking plans for the New Year?

Good question!

Today is the 28th December and we don’t have long to go before we see in the New Year, and all that it will bring.

So if you haven’t yet decided what your hiking plans are, myself included, well, we’d better get on with it and decide real quick.

Living in BC, I’m blessed with a wonderful choice of hiking; I can either choose to hike locally or strike out miles away from civilisation, as there so much land here. and most of it is uninhabited.

For the coming season, I think I’d like to go much further north, way up into the Yukon if I can, as my heart hankers for some lonesome walking, amongst snow and ice, rather than the forest and woodland I have been accustomed to.

Though it seems a nice thought, once you are in the true north, you have to be ultra careful, as help will be many, many miles away, if available at all.

And that will mean kitting myself out with as much fail-safe equipment as I can afford to carry.

As we all know, my kit will consist of those essentials that can mean the difference between survival or death, should the unforeseen happen. That means food, first aid, clothing/bedding, fire-starting equipment, cooking apparatus and anything else that I can think of.

I will be camping out in the open, so a good, solid, easily assembled/disassembled tent will be an absolute must.

Talking about camping in cold regions just reminded me about arrangements for a person’s, shall we say, daily ablutions? Normally, experienced hikers and walkers usually rely on a rough hole in the ground, which can be quickly filled in with soil etc when the job is finished. But in cold areas, where the ground is either frozen due to permafrost or is just too hard, digging holes in the ground can become laborious.

So what is the best way to take care of this very necessary task? Well, it all depends upon how long you are planning to stay in that particular site. Myself, if I know I’m going to be camped in one area for more than a week, I usually dig myself a proper “loo”, as it’s no fun sitting over a hole in the ground in the open air, with a cold, biting wind blowing all around your “undercarriage”, not to mention down your neck, too!

And believe it or not, there are certain rules you need to follow if your toilet in the open is to be properly managed. Again, depending upon the temperature, you will notice that after every visit, the waste products will freeze almost straight away. So what happens over time is that all your waste will tend to build itself into a very large icicle, albeit a rather very smelly one!

If you don’t manage it on a daily basis, that icicle will soon reach your nether regions and the only way to control it will be to chop it down to a smaller size with an axe or something. Of course, being what it is, that will inevitably leave small chunks of it on your clothing or hands, meaning as soon as you get back to your tent or shelter, all those chunks will melt, releasing an obvious, and very noxious smell, and one which you will never get out of your clothes until you get back home…to be avoided at all costs!

How do you construct the shelter around your loo? I’ve used whatever is close at hand. If in the woods, you can use a quick shelter made of twigs and branches, or if you are in very cold terrain, a shelter made of snow blocks is again very easy to construct.

What you should be doing daily, is to take a look down the hole and see how high the icicle has become….soon as it gets over 6 inches high, knock it down with a large stick or branch. That way, you can spend your time in your toilet in peace, knowing that once the time has come to move on, the hole can be filled in with snow or soil.

 

What to wear when hiking and why…

Sometimes, when I’m on a hike in cold areas, I mean REAL cold areas, where temperatures regularly reach -35 to -45C, I feel thankful for all the advice I was given to me years ago by my friend Yutai, who had lived all his life in the land that has now been named Nunavut.

Yutai was blessed in 2 ways–he knew how to clothe himself with skins as well as modern-day textiles, and best of all, he knew how to combine the two to ensure you were never in trouble if caught out in a snowstorm or blizzard.

What Yutai taught me is now universal, or should be, amongst us hikers, and that’s layering.

Up in the North, unlike anywhere else on earth, it’s not healthy to sweat. For those of you who don’t know the answer, let me tell you why. As Yutai said, in cold weather, you must at all costs try and avoid sweating, as when you stop your work, that moisture that has settled in your clothes will freeze, and that frozen moisture can kill you with hypothermia just as soon as not wearing any clothes will.

So in order to beat that, he taught me to wear my clothes in layers…as an example, I wear a vest first, then a full sleeve fleece, on top of that I will wear another fleece with a hood and then on top of that, I will wear a fur hat and waterproof/windproof jacket, with thermal gloves on my hands.

For my lower torso, I wear thermal long johns, two pairs if it’s really evil out there, then outer waterproof pants.

Once I’m on the hike, and if I find myself beginning to sweat, I stop and take off 1 layer and restart the hike and so on….it’s real funny sometimes, as you may see me walking on thick snow with ice all around, wearing just my base fleece, as once you’re on the move, you get pretty damn warm!

Following Yutai’s advice, I have never had to hang up my clothes once I’m at camp, in order to dry out the sweat. Remember this….it may help save your life!