Last week I introduced G, a hiking, cooking tick-picking guide whose summer stomping ground is the landscape around the glorious Lake Baikal. He leads a double life though: the tourist season runs only from June to September so throughout the colder months he works indoors as a full-time aluminium company engineer. He enjoys both, and that’s just as well because there simply isn’t tourist work during the severe Russian winter. Perhaps his interest in guiding on skiing trips may lead to future work opportunities – but that’s one to watch. In the here and now, his twin existence continues.
I’m interested to learn about his essential recommendations for a successful hike. Surprisingly, at the top of his list come food, a sense of humour and a good attitude – I and was just expecting insect repellent.
It makes sense though; the right attitude and outlook can make all the difference to a great many things in life, especially when there are various rigours to be endured; such as a two day trek in the wilds for instance. Yes it’s amateur psychology time, here on Trips and Tales. How does it go: “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you deal with it?” – or words to that effect. There’s a lot of truth there. Food, of course, is essential to keep the energy levels up, and again for the psychological boost it gives: the sense of well being, just from getting a good meal.
So in G‘s recommended pack up, find cans of meat or fish, porridge oats, vegetables, biscuits and jam for starters. In terms of equipment, find some of the usual hiking suspects – the essentials of which would be recommended as far back as the booking stage of the journey. These would include: a tent, sleeping bag, dishes and cutlery, hiking boots and mosquito repellent for starters.
Behaviour is an important “preparation”, in that knowing what and what not to do will reduce the odds of encountering trouble later. For safety, G recommends that trousers should be tucked into socks and that long sleeves and a hat be worn. Why? Well, because of the prevalence of ticks throughout the sunny hiking season. These little devils can really mess you up if you are unfortunate enough to be bitten by one that is infected with one or more of a veritable pot-pourri of possible diseases, not least encephalitis. Apparently they wait on plant life for warm blooded animals (i.e. you) to pass by. They then hitch a ride. Even if they miss skin and alight upon your outer garments, the risk is not over as they tend to crawl around looking for a way in. Hence you will find G instructing hiking party members to check each other over ever 15 to 20 minutes; yes, that frequently.
It’s a grisly business but it doesn’t stop the hiking trade. If a tick is found embedded in you, it has to be carefully removed (G knows how) so that its legs don’t snap off and remain in your skin, leading to infection. The beast then has to be kept and tested for signs of disease, with a view to starting appropriate preventative treatment early if any are found.
If that sounds too much like a horror story, then bear in mind G‘s advice: “Be careful and concentrate, then no problem”. Hopefully that’ll help you avoid the (occasionally poisonous) snakes too. I didn’t mention those, did I? Well, it seems that there are not many in number, but they are there nonetheless.
And finally (in the tradition of many end-of-show news stories), G‘s assurance that he hasn’t actually had any problems may not be enough, so he recommends a traditional Russian cure-all: vodka. Yes, he advocates pouring it on a wound to kill infection (?) – and of course after some impromptu tick-removing field surgery: a stiff drink maybe just what you need.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 97) Last stop: Vladivostok
[Photo by fennU2]