Walking is something that humans have done since we descended from the trees of Africa, from there we decided to explore the globe. Our ancestors had to overcome unimaginable terrain, traversing incredible distances with little to no food or water, crossing the arctic, jungles and climbing the tallest peaks in the Himalayas. My two year voyage was commemorating the struggles and sacrifices our ancestors had to endure in order for us to read this blog.
Before embarking on Crossing Africa, a 12,000km walk across the African continent from Cape Town to Cairo, I begin my training with more humble distances. A 550 kilometre / 342 mile walk from Toronto to Montreal. It was a massive undertaking guided by a good friend of mine Donna Foster. She convinced me to train and learn the art of endurance power walking. I am most grateful for her teachings and enthusiasm for life in general. I averaged ten-plus hours a day, sometimes surpassing fifteen hours in a single day. Incurring severe chafing between my thighs, feeling unimaginable pains and experienced boredom that eventually turned to torment, it was a rough start. To most of you reading this, you will probably never experience walking ultra long distances in such terrain. The tips I'm providing will help with anyone's walking needs, whether you're going for a casual day hike or setting up a two year expedition across a continent. Through my experiences and training I will share with you the basics in successfully walking short and ultra long distances.
How to pack
Bring only the essentials! To accomplish long expedition walks you must become a minimalist to the fullest, your body and psychological state will face the consequences otherwise. A lot of people are surprised at how little they need in order to continue living an abundant life.
This part, though the most important, is different for every person. Distance is a good form of motivation and measurement to keep track of your progress. Time can be used primarily to determine pace. Time can be perceived as relatively longer or shorter depending on your state of mind for that day. That's not good if you have hundreds of hours left to complete your journey. Distance however can be used consistently as goal setting marks.
Everyone's motivation comes from different places, some are motivated by nature, the outdoors and feel that walking is the best way to experience it. Others want to push the boundaries of distance and conquer terrain, or perhaps experience cultures and wildlife in unique ways. Whatever reason you decided with, always stay focused on what got you there in the first place. Losing focus typically happens during challenging times, there can be times when it's easier to die than to continue going on.
Enjoy your surroundings, seemingly blank farm fields can spark deep philosophical thoughts. Use this time to comb through your mind, become your own best friend and therapist. Allow yourself to poke fun at yourself and laugh out-loud to your own silliness. Presence is also important, enjoy the luxuries of Earth's oxygen, the wind and the sun's rays.
Start your day as early as the sun's up, better to arrive to your destination earlier in the day, it gives you room to explore you camp site, hotel or wherever you decide to settle for the night. I recommend walking two to three hours straight without breaks and eventually four to five hours without breaks. Near the end of my expedition in Africa I was averaging forty kilometres / twenty five miles a day with only one or no breaks at all. I consumed foods and drinks as I walked. I did this because I was in a country with only a one month visa so I had push myself to make the deadline
Water consumption is essential throughout the day, this is your lifeline, keep a close eye on your consumption. I recommend eating foods with high concentrations of complex carbohydrates (carbs) like pasta/noodles/rice, they digest in your body slower than simple carbs like nutritional bars, chocolate and candy but they are also essential for occasional boosts. An energy beverage mixed with water is the preferable recovery drink. Here's an amazing mix that I've used throughout my voyage; add lemon, a tablespoon of honey and teaspoon of salt in a full bottle of water, you can add extras like ginger or other spices for added flavour. These ingredients are light, compact and can last for weeks.
You're not going to encounter five star meals along your hikes, unless you're walking city to city with a fat budget. Compact foods with high amounts of nutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins) are preferable for long hikes. To keep meals condensed I typically choose dehydrated foods. Anything can be made or bought dehydrated like meats, oats, vegetables, fruits and so on. Another neat trick is crushing those instant noodles and packing them into an airtight bag, this saves you space - efficiency is gold. I'll definitely touch upon nutrition a bit more in an upcoming post.
Do you need malaria pills, do you need to learn a new language, are you fit enough for the challenge and have you prepared all your essential documents? These are questions you need check off on your list. It took me roughly a year to prepare my Crossing Africa expedition with careful research that helped my walk more enjoyable and I felt prepared to go into the unknown.
Expect things to not work out from time to time, the test is whether you persevere through it or falter, a rigid mind will not reach far but perseverance will eventually get you to your destination. We evolved to survive this good earth, so go out and explore as our ancestors have.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my post. What do you think walking is all about and are there things i've missed? Comment below or share this post with your friends. Also take a look at my latest posts here.
Mario Rigby | Explorer
A modern explorer recently finished a voyage of walking across Africa entirely by foot and kayak.