What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hiking Lessons

So yesterdays trip was a very good learning lesson on what I will be doing daily and how best to try to handle it. Firstly, the water situation is going to have to be solved properly.  I was planning on getting a camelbak bladder that can either go into the backpack or on it somehow.  My backpack is not ideal as it is old and doesn't have a compartment made for it.  The other thing is that I drink a lot of water, so this is key.  I was out for pretty much 7 hours yesterday and I drank over five liters just while I was out, never mind before and after, and I still only peed once while I was out, and that was at about 6 hours into the journey.  So in a day like yesterday I would imagine that I drank 7 or 8 liters of water.  The plan then is going to have to be to make sure that when I wake up that I start hydrating immediately and that once I stop I do the same.  Because the more water you carry the heavier it all is.  It is nice though that your pack gets lighter as the day goes!!

The backpack is a bit tricky, it is not ideal.  It is old, and was not bought to do what I'm doing but to go around europe from hostel to hostel.  It is not going to be good in the rain and was not entirely comfortable.  I mean it was ok, and poor people don't go out and buy new things, but my shoulders are a little sore today, but nothing I would get used to though.  The bag's straps don't sit at the same angle as my trap muscles do so they dig in a bit.  The waste strap is a bit tricky as well, couldn't get in right spot to take more weight off the shoulders without restricting the waste area.  But the biggest thing that I really needed was a pocket or two.  Everything I have on that pack is in the back, I definitely need something on the waste strap that I could put the phone in, pen and paper, snack, whatever.  Everytime I have a thought and want to remember it for writing later it would be nice to be able to note it, and pockets in my shorts seemed to be in the way of walking.  That will be a necessity.  I definitely will need a compass, I was actually quite happy with my sense of north and south, but it was because I knew the map of the trail and the sun was out.  I'm good at that stuff anyway, but Sierra Leone will be a different and less 'known' scenario.

Shoes:  I love the Vibrams.  But I have to get my feet in better shape to stretch and work like that.  The hills took a lot out of them, asking them to flex more and more powerfully than they had.  I should have done about ten miles the first day out instead of 16.  I also would like to get one of the trekking pairs that has a little bit more grip and a bit of padding.  The padding could be a plus, especially with the pack on - but not a necessity while walking, running it could help though.  I'd also like to get the new running one the bikila, that has a bit of padding as well.  It seemed like my body was used to walking "barefoot" with my natural weight, but once I put on the heavy pack my heel strike got much harder.  After about a mile or so I feel like my stride had adjusted to the body/weight dispersment.  My feet are really sore on the inside today.  The muscles and tendons really.  But actually it is mostly the left one which a did hit at one point.  I also have a leg length discrepancy that annoys one side or the other at times.  So it could be some of all that.  I don't have anything even remotely resembling a blister though.  They were fabulous in that sense.  Actually, the shoes were fabulous in general except for a little slippage in the beginning on steeper grassy hills, but it was fine once I settled in.  

I started out in a simple pair of cotton shorts, it really would be nice to just use synthetic moisture management shorts and stuff, but I just don't feel as good when I wear synthetics.  We'll see, a pair of running shorts I have would have been great so maybe i'll try them in the future.  But the shorts I started in were really quite good, they did get drenched though.  I changed into more typical lightweight cotton cargo shorts once I started back.  I don't know if it was because when I stopped that I stopped sweating and my thighs dried up, but the chaffing started immediately.  I changed shorts after not even a mile to similar ones as what I started in (and have been running in regularly) but they didn't help.  I will need to solve this problem as it is debilitating.  Inner thighs and 'up' ouch.  Body glide is another option, but that is one of those long term debilitating, short term 'solutions'.  Your body becomes dependent upon it.  Usually I get some chaffing the first few times out running each spring in shorts but my thighs just sort of adapt after a bit.  Maybe this would happen?  I don't know, this was pretty bad.  I must admit I even thought that I might need to consider underwear as I was finishing up - huge concession for me.  Then of course my mother gave a brief lecture on that one as well.

One thing I was thinking with the shorts and shirt was to have two pairs one for the morning and one for the afternoon as I did it yesterday.  That way the wet one could hang and dry while hiking.  If I wore one pair all day they would never dry at night and it was really nice to put a dry pair on after lunch.  I wore a 'spouse' beater (more commonly known in a 'gendered' context which I prefer not to use;)  I thought this was pretty good.  I don't know if it is best, but I was cool enough I suppose.  I can't vouch for how good it would be to walk into a village like that though, backpack on, looking gorilla-esque.  I still want to try the silk shirts and see how they works.      

I also stopped to try to get some stuff out of my pack and it underlined the need for organization.  I wasn't trying to be for this day, just looking to add weight, but I will need to develop a system.  I am going to basically be living with this thing on my back and need for it to be completely functional.  I also saw a father and son that were using hammocks, they didn't have much great to say about them.  "Good for a couple days, but not extended trips".  Everything I hear though is that I will have to stay off the ground with tropical camping, and that pretty much starts and stops with a hammock.  Theirs was interesting, straight tied to three trees it was just a nylon hammock with a mosquito screen on the top.

I'm thinking I will have one, they said they were great weight wise, but then I would take a bed role and light bag so I could sleep on the ground if needed.  One thing I took from the book a long way gone, is that surviving in the forests there is incredibly feasible.  Ishmael was 12 and he managed with just the clothes on his back, I should be able to as well with my pack and no war to navigate through.

Bugs.  Wow, they are annoying.  The one thing I can't understand is why it is they just want to fly into your eyes?  I don't mind them flying around me, or landing on me, but why must they fly into my eyes?  Even blinking isn't sufficient.  The problem that I had with this is you can't really enjoy the forest, you are kind of squinting and blinking, its like your face must remain tense and defensive at all times.  But it was really only an issue in the forrest, in the clearings it wasn't an issue.  I put on a little bit of natural bug spray and it helped some, but I think I sweat it off in about fifteen minutes.  It was supposed to be 92 (33C) degrees yesterday, but it seems much nicer and cooler in the forest.

As far as other equipment, I thought about a hat, but think it would be hot, though I did spend a lot of time wiping sweat off my brow.  So might be worth looking into, especially if it rains.  I think for me it really will be about more pockets and better organization of my thing in a way that is more usable while moving.  It is really annoying to have to take off your pack to do or get anything.  I'm thinking I might look into the way the army sets up their gear, could be a good benchmark.  I also needed business cards, as I met a few people that I could've just handing them a card and maybe they'd check the site instead of just telling it to them - I'd probably forget it.  They are one of the target audiences so a good idea.  The food was fine, nuts and dried fruit, broccoli and grilled chicken, I wasn't hungry much at all.  Not even for lunch or dinner for that matter, but I knew I needed to eat.  Fruit will be important, but it sounds like it is readily available in Sierra Leone.  My body will need the sugars.

Anyway, I think its time to end this novel for now.  I feel like there was more, but you're probably already either asleep or didn't even make it this far anyway!!  lol.  Enjoy the day...        

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