Feckin' Trekkin'

Matt and Krista's Awesome Travel Blog

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The Great TTC Expedition Part 1

This week we’re officially starting our training for the Nepal trek. We both like to keep things fun so we’re starting with a multi-part urban expedition that should prove to be taxing but involving at the same time.

Our Mission: To hike the entire length of the Toronto subway system (excluding the Scarborough RT line), visiting all 64 (I think) stations along the way.

The total length of the Bloor-Danforth, Yonge-Spadina and Sheppard lines is about 71km by my reckoning, so it’s a decent challenge. Just to make it extra fun, we’re doing the whole thing carrying our day packs. Clearly we can’t hike 70km in one go, so we’re going to split it up into segments. Krista’s keen to get started on our training plan so we started tonight with 9 or so kilometers from Downsview station at the top of the Spadina line, down to Eglinton West. It was pretty interesting as we don’t know that part of town at all well and we can’t walk right along the subway route as it runs over Hwy 401 and down the middle of Allen Road.

The first kilometer was particularly good fun as we tried to cut across a field next to Downsview Station.

Matt: “Let’s cross through the field to get to those set of lights and continue onwards”
Krista: “I think it’s fenced in?”

**A few minutes later**

Krista: “We’re fenced in, why is there an ambulance in the field..?”
Krista: “And pylons..? … Hey look, barbed wire…”
Matt: “Let’s jump it!”

**Krista wriggles under the fence, Matt jumps it, Krista looks at the sign on the fence**

Krista: “We just walked through the Toronto EMS training facility…”.

Awesome start!

Our progress improved after that but we still had to take a bit of a detour along to Dufferin in order to negotiate the 401. Despite walking at a decent pace we only averaged 15 mins per km (=4km per hour) by the time you add in coffee breaks, photo stops and generally negotiating traffic. Still, we’re not in a rush and hiking through Yorkdale Mall with backpacks on was good for a chuckle. Pictures of our visits to the first six stations are below.

Next time out we’ll be picking it up at Eglinton West and heading downtown towards Union Station.

Memory Erasers and Lukla Airport

So… Another trip to MEC…. Glacier glasses, mountaineering book etc…
I spark up a conversation with the older gent who is discussing polarised glasses with the two of us. Very knowledgeable guy and has actually traveled up to Everest BC with his wife. He gave his own account about his experience. It sounded pretty amazing and the way he discussed it made it seem that the trek may not be so difficult after all.

What I *WISH* I didn’’t hear was his experience of the take-off from Lukla airport. Due to the fact the runway is short the pilots apparently rev up the engine with the brakes on, and basically haul mega *a*s* down the runway in very old, very small planes. The best part was how he described the take off.The plane itself after take off “drops” for a while, a long, long while…… and then starts to gain altitude at which point the plane slowly goes back up.

So let’s just pause for a second here and imagine what that would look/feel like? ……

OK. Now, add myself into that mix…. I’’ll give you a minute to allow that to sink in.

(Insert Krista going pale in the face. Blank stare… and Matt looking at the guy, shaking his head)

Matt then asked the guy if they sold the Men in Black memory erasers as he felt it should be done to my mind. Immediately.

Unfortunately they didn’’t have the product.

Awenda Provincial Park

We just got back from our first camping trip of the season. We figured spending the weekend on Georgian Bay, about 2 1/2 hours north of Toronto, would be a good opportunity to chill out, check all the camping equipment is in good condition and test out some of our new kit.

Conclusions:-

  • Krista and I can quite happily share a 6 foot x 7 foot nylon dome for a weekend. And if we couldn’t we had 3000 square kilometres to escape from each other.
  • Canadian mosquitoes find me far more tasty than European ones do (I barely ever get bitten in the UK, but got about 20 bites this weekend)
  • The weakest point on any piece of equipment is always the zip (witness Krista trying to close the tent up after going for a pee at 1am ).
  • Photographing chipmunks isn’t especially hard when there are dozens of them wandering around the place.
  • Petzl headlamps are brilliant bits of kit and kick the crap out of a handheld torch.
  • The layering approach to dressing really does work. Give me a decent base layer, fleece top and a windproof jacket and I can cope with anything an Ontario spring can throw at me, night or day, rain or shine.
  • Georgian Bay is a great place to practice photography, but beware of fat kids in the background.
  • Wearing the same underwear for 3 days isn’t that bad, so long as you’re not getting sweaty the whole time.
  • My new backpack is great, and once you’ve got it adjusted right you can walk for hours without really noticing it’s there.
  • Camping with a dog really is a lot of fun.

Here are a few of our favourite photos from the weekend.

Quotations

We’ve been reading a LOT recently, about Nepal, climbing, climbers, the mountains… Every now and again you come across a quotation that strikes a chord, or expresses your feelings more adequately than you can do it yourself. We’ve collected a few below.

This quote grabbed Krista’s attention and was the one that started the collection.

I find it fascinating that our planet still has areas where no modern technology can save you, where you are reduced to your most basic – and essential – self. This natural space creates demanding situations that can lead to suffering and death, but also generate a wild interior richness. Ultimately, there is no way of reconciling these contradictions. All I can do it try to live within their margins, in the narrow boundary between joy and horror. Everything on this earth is a balancing act.
Jean-Christophe Lafaille, French Mountaineer (March 31, 1965 – January 17, 2006 (presumed))

Whilst neither of us relish going to places where our welfare is solely in the hands of the gods, the phrase “wild interior richness” resonated utterly. Why do we enjoy getting out into the wilderness, going where other people go? How do you describe the feeling of satisfaction that you get from climbing a mountain, paddling a river or spending a night in the forest? I think that phrase describes it really well.

There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell, and with these in mind I say, climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.
Edward Whymper, after the Matterhorn tragedy in 1861

Compare the above quote against the below…

The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I really love this quote from Ranulph Fiennes. It exemplifies the attitude of “stop complaining and find a way”, and I can imagine him delivering it with a classic British ex-military stiff-upper-lip.

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes

And a couple of funny ones to lighten the tone…

[In response to being asked what the hardest thing is about climbing Everest…]
Pissing through 6 inches of clothes with a 3 inch penis!
Anonymous Everest summiteer

And finally…

The three great levellers of human society are the fact that each of us needs to eat, shit and sleep and no amount of money, status or ego will ever change that.
Bill Forrester

The more you are sensitive to the ways of Nepal…

Tourist Information signThis afternoon I finally sat down to read “Trekking in Nepal – A Traveler’s Guide”. I got as far as the second paragraph of the Preface before I hit something that made me put the book down and think (and subsequently write this article).

The more you are sensitive to the ways of Nepal, the more intimate and wonderful your experience.

This simple sentence reminded me of something I read in a random traveler’s blog yesterday that made me cringe.

I watched a fire ceremony of some kind at the Monastery.  Wasn’t really all that exciting. The Monks put on funny hats and chanted and blew horns and then lit some wood on fire.  I’m not sure what was going on but it only happens once a year so I’m sure it was important to them.

(To be fair to the writer, she was on a tight itinerary, traveling without a local guide, and was visiting Nepal as part of a round the world trip so she hadn’t had as much time as she may have liked to research the local cultures.)

This highlights to me why I love travel so much (and perhaps why others find it harder work or less fulfilling). I am fully 100% aware that you get out what you put in. In order to appreciate the land you’re traveling in, you must learn to appreciate it’s people and society, and the issues, opportunities and pressures that shape it. This may be obvious to more seasoned travelers, or seem a little tree-hugging for others, but it’s important to me. I live in a consumer-driven culture, where people are motivated to cram as much food as possible into their faces, as many possessions as possible into their houses, and as many dollar bills into their bank accounts. Perhaps if people put a little onus on cramming truly fulfilling experiences into their lives the world would be a more tolerant, more interesting, more sustainable place.

Battling colds, trek prep and another day of shopping

Beautiful Saturday here in Toronto!

Matt, who is under the weather after completing his first marathon, and I got up and out into the sun and started off in search of our day packs that will be our second skin for a good month. The plan was to hit Coast Mountain Sports, MEC and Europe Bound. Coffee in hand we hit up Coast Mountain. The staff there were just incredible. Michael took the time to go over several day packs with Matt and went as far as filling it with weights so he could get an idea as to what it would be like. Granted he was only walking and jumping around in the shop (I blame his cabin fever for it) with it. Comfort is the number one concern. After a few packs, several jumps and adjustments so the pack could fit his torso nicely he found it.

Off to MEC in search of a pack for myself. MEC is an awesome shop, but I felt a little overwhelmed by the options there and my attention span was losing momentum due to the fact that I was getting hungry. I lasted 10 minutes before calling it quits. Fingers crossed that Europe Bound has a good selection. Got there and WTF… the place is rammed with equipment and needless to say it isn’t very organized! Rummaging through the packs, Matt found one and suggested I give it a shot. The pack was super comfy and it sat well on my hips. Sold.

After a bite to eat, a bit of play with our new purchases and Matt announcing that I am no longer to call him by his name but by Snot Boy, we were back at MEC in search of hydration packs.

A walk around the shop, trying out carbon hiking poles (which are on the list), sporting bright orange down-filled jackets and looking at granny pants, the hydration packs were picked up. Matt opted for a 3L while I got the 2L.

Overall, a very good day of shopping! Next? Socks and durable hiking boots.

Shopping for books at MEC

Krista went shopping yesterday at MEC and came home with, amongst other things, a book about trekking in Nepal. If you’re interested, it’s called “Trekking in  Nepal, A Traveler’s  Guide” and it’s by Stephen Bezruchka. I haven’t managed to get near it yet but apparently it’s absolutely fantastic. Amazon reviews would seem to bear out Krista’s opinion too, so hopefully I’ll manage to wrestle it from her this weekend and find out for myself. One snippet that was shared with is the following quote which we both thought is rather poignant.

Nepal is there to change you, not for you to change it. Lose yourself in its soul. Make your footprints with care and awareness of the precarious balance around you. Take souvenirs in your heart and spirit, not in your pockets. Nepal is not only a place on the map, but an experience, a way of life from which we all can learn.

From “Trekking in Nepal, A Traveler’s Guide” by Stephen Bezruchka

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