There are almost too many good reasons to get into trekking: the astonishing scenery, the unparalleled health benefits, the sense of freedom, the feeling of achievement when you reach your destination and much more. But trekking holidays for first timers can be daunting – so let us help you get started.
Every year countless people across the world take up trekking for the first time. However, like any other sport, you can’t expect to take on the toughest challenges as a beginner – you’ll need to start humbly and build yourself up to the big hikes.
It goes without saying that you need to be in good shape you begin your hike. Carrying a heavy pack up a mountain is not for the wimpy, so it’s worth doing enough exercise to strengthen your core and get used to carrying a heavy load. But most important of all are your leg muscles which are best developed through jogging, cycling and walking (lots of walking).
General exercise will boost your cardiopulmonary fitness ensuring that your body is fed with enough oxygen by your heart and lungs. When training for the hike itself, build up slowly from covering ½ mile in 15 minutes on Day 1 to ¾ of a mile in 20 minutes on Day 2 to 1 mile in 25 minutes on Day 3 and so on in gradual increments like that.
Sticking to a training routine is essential, even if you can’t get out in the open air. Swimming, running on a treadmill and climbing stairs a la Rocky for 30-45 minutes a day will all help to boost your trekking fitness.
Don’t bulk up too quickly or you’ll risk sores, strains and blisters. On your first treks, you should take no more than a bottle of water and a medical kit. Add a couple of pounds of weight to your pack each day until you can handle the typical 20 to 40 pound load you’ll be taking on one of the hikes outlined below.
At almost 6000 metres above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro may not seem like the easiest of beginners’ treks, but taken at a measured pace and with expert supervision, this awe-inspiring volcanic cone can be conquered by rookies too. The 12-day Lemosho route affords gradual acclimatisation and delivers you to a beautiful array of landscapes, from ethereal desert to untamed jungle, breathtaking lava towers to bucolic forest camps.
Many UK tour operators such as Explore! run tours up Kili between August and December when the heat is tolerable and the packages include rental of first-rate tents with oversized poles, hoop geometry and waterproof fabrics. The Kilimanjaro Trek is a true world-beater.
Similarly, the infamous reputation of the Inca Trail can strike terror into the hearts of newbies. The typical 4-day hike takes you through the Sacred Valley, the iconic ruins of ‘the Lost City’, vibrant Pisac Market and snow-brushed mountains galore. With 5-6 hours’ walking time per day, you can stop off for optional extra activities such as kayaking and rafting – providing you can swim 25 metres unaided.
While sturdy GoreTex boots are recommended for walking, pliable and manoeuvrable Teva sandals work best for rafting. As long as you prepare yourself with a couple of days’ hill-hiking, you’ll have the requisite fitness level for the Inca Trail trek. Altitude sickness is usually not a problem on a trip like this, but if you do suffer, its symptoms are quickly allayed with such traditional remedies as cocoa.
Trekking in Morocco is truly a one-off experience. From the atmospheric souks of Marrakech to inimitable Berber villages, the alpine wilderness of the Atlas Mountains to the 4165 metre climb up Jebel Toubkal. Many tour operators offer 15-day trips covering all the cultural and natural draws of North Africa.
You can do this trek almost any time of the year depending on what kind of experience you want. If you’re fascinated by alpine flora it’s best to go between May and June. July to August is the warmest season when all the snow has more or less disappeared. September to October sees temperatures cool and the beginnings of snow. In May, June and September, the temperature at higher altitudes can fall to below freezing. Snowfall is a perennial risk, but is most common in March.
With the right preparations, and some of the well know routes trekking holidays for first timers can be life changing experiences that you will treasure forever.