After 37 years of trekking and conducting treks as a tour leader, Ray Baker selects his favourites.
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day -Henry David Thoreau
I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me -Noël Coward
Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time -Steven Wright
My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is-Ellen DeGeneres
What is your favourite trek? I get asked this question regularly. Despite giving it a lot of thought, I cannot give a definitive answer but please read on and see below for a selection of some of my best-loved treks.
But first, let’s define the word ‘trek’ – trek, tramp, bushwalk, ramble, hike and peregrination all mean the same thing. ‘Trek’ applies to anywhere in the world, any distance, any duration – even a one day walk.
I’ve been fortunate to do many treks since my first one in Nepal 37 years ago. Although I have a lot to choose from, most of my treks have been repeated because of my role as a leader on treks including the Kokoda Track, Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp, Kanchenjunga and the Annapurna Circuit. I’m sure there are some of you who have trekked in more countries than I have.
The one thing my treks have in common
Before I name some of my choices, I should mention that they all have one thing in common; one fundamental ingredient that links them all, and that is… they all involve walking… an activity that human beings are designed for; an activity that gets us off our backsides and gets us moving.
We humans need to move to survive. As a recreational activity, I would much prefer to walk, experiencing a slower, more concentrated view of the world around me, than flash by in a vehicle.
We have our special preferences for many reasons: fine weather; beautiful scenery; a physical or mental challenge; trekking trails previously untrodden; friendships formed; a pilgrimage completed; a tick on a bucket list; and, discoveries made, being just a few.
My favourite treks:
Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India
This is a classic high Himalayan trek in an area rarely visited by outsiders.
The Parvati Valley has pristine forests, waterfalls, lakes, meadows decorated with colourful flowers, snow-capped peaks, sacred sites and serene solitude.
The trail is rugged and difficult in parts and provides a challenge, even to experienced trekkers. The campsites up the valley are isolated and peaceful. The only inhabitants here are the nomadic Gaddi shepherds, who graze their livestock during the summer months.
The trail crosses the 5300m Pin Parvati pass and leads into the remote, barren and starkly beautiful region of Spiti.
Mt Wilhelm, Central Highlands, Papua New Guinea
Imagine leaving Australia for just one week and in that time trekking through four eco zones; tropical jungle, temperate forest, alpine grasslands and, as you reach the 4509m summit of Oceania’s highest mountain, nothing but granite (and maybe ice).
If you’re fortunate enough to be on the summit on a clear dawn, you’ll spy the Coral Sea on the one side of PNG and the Bismarck Sea on the other. I can recommend this to anyone wanting a short, sharp and vigorous adventure.
Tip: Get fit. Summit day can take up to 12 hours.
Crossing Renjo La 5417m, Khumbu, Nepal
If a single trekking day stands out, it’s this one. A few years ago, I led a group on the Everest High Passes trek and Renjo La was our last pass crossing. As we had already ascended over 5,000m on four separate occasions leading up to Renjo, we were all well acclimatised and comfortable in the high altitude.
Our day started from the small settlement of Gokyo, situated on the shore of Dudh Pokhari, a magnificent high altitude lake. After skirting along the north shore of the lake, the trail ascended a rocky gully and a boulder strewn plateau before the final steep section to the prayer flag bedecked pass.
The view from Renjo La took my breath away. Mt Everest and three other 8,000m peaks plus a 360° panorama of the Himalaya were laid out in front of us.
Far below we could see the Ngozumpa Glacier, the longest in Nepal and the frozen waters of Dudh Pokhari. The other side of Renjo descended the remote Bhote Valley.
As we trekked into the lower altitudes the weather warmed, the trail got easier and we were blessed with an onrush of oxygen. I had reassuring thoughts; the hard yards were over and everyone was safe.
Some honourable mentions:
Mt Meru, Tanzania, East Africa
A short trek used for acclimatisation before tackling Kilimanjaro. Meru is a 4562m dormant volcano.
The summit ascent involves trekking along the rim of the crater. Stand atop the summit at dawn to see Kilimanjaro floating on a sea of cloud.
Cape to Cape, Western Australia
A 135km walk from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin (or vice versa).
My trekking companion referred to this area as the most beautiful coastline in the World.
A comment one would expect a Sand Groper to utter, but hard to disagree with, just the same.
The Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea
Jungle trekking at its best and a pilgrimage for many Aussies who walk the Track to honour the courage and sacrifice of the Diggers who served there. Rugged terrain and tough going in parts. As most of the Track is over 1000m, there’s nowhere near the humidity (or mossies) that one would expect.
After a long challenging day on the Track, plunge into a cool mountain stream…paradise!
So, that’s all from me. I’d love to hear what you consider to be your trek of choice, so it’s over to you. Please share your thoughts – What is your favourite trek…and why?
And, if you want to do a trek with me, look me up, I’m always heading off somewhere!