Friday, August 19, 2005

Off to Nepal

This is it! We're flying to Kathmandu tomorrow for two weeks of trekking in Nepal. I still can't believe I signed up for walking 4 to 6 hours a day. This from the person for whom a beginners' yoga class is significant physical exertion.

Preparing for the trek has taken two months of admittedly haphazard fitness training. Actually - that was six weeks of intending to go to the gym, and two panicked weeks of "serious" training consisting of 5-hour walks every few days. John wasn't too keen on my suggestion of doing our training walks in the airconditioned shopping malls at Suntec, so instead we broke in our new boots on the NUS brisk walking route from MacRitchie reservoir to Bukit Timah.

Bukit Timah is Singapore's highest point, at a whopping altitude of 164 meters above sea level. Not much preparation for climbing Yala, which is only... oh... 33-and-a-half times as high.

Nepali summits, unlike Singapore ones, don't come equipped with a chicken rice and fried bee hoon restaurant at base camp. So I'm taking along a plentiful supply of trail snacks - chocolate covered raisins, Snickers bars, gourmet apple & cinnamon trail mix bars, and packaged champorado from my dwindling stash. I packed my backpack last night and one-third of it was occupied by food.

Shopping for trekking gear was more challenging than picking out snacks. Apparently, outdoor sports in Singapore are largely a male preserve. And I really do mean large - it was almost impossible to find good waterproof jackets and pants for women, much less in small sizes. After searching everywhere, I managed to snag the very last pair of small-sized Nike Clima-Fit pants in all Singapore. I opted to buy a blue-grey kids-sized jacket from Adidas instead of settling for the garish bright magenta Nike ladies' jacket (yes, there's a reason that last piece has never been sold).

You know how in mountaineering pictures, the group at the summit is always dressed in all colors of the rainbow? I thought that was due to personality quirks of alpine climbers, but as I shopped for gear I quickly realized that those color schemes are a product of necessity. Forced to choose between coughing up 200+ USD for a pair of very stylish black Arc'teryx three-season trekking pants and spending less than a third of that on equally functional no-name trekking pants (in fatigue green, oh well), I just couldn't bring myself to buy a pair of pants that cost more than a 4-day vacation in Phuket. I am now also, against my will, the possessor of a fatigue green vinyl rain poncho and a fatigue green sunhat. With my Nike shirts and bright daypack, hopefully I won't be mistaken for either army soldier or Maoist rebel.

After two weeks of frantic shopping I've finally assembled most of my gear. I've spent so much time in camping shops, I can serve as a fill-in salesperson when the regular staff is busy. "See, what you really need is the midweight base layer shirt... here... try this one..."

My only condition for agreeing to go on this trek was that we find a REALLY nice hotel and spa to recuperate in on the last day. Thankfully, Kathmandu has its share of four- and five-star hotels - visions of these will keep me going when I start ruing the day I ever heard of the Himalaya.

Two weeks from today we'll doubtless be back in safe and sunny Singapore, loaded with knit yak wool socks, Maoist "donation" receipts, a ton of pictures, and a renewed appreciation for the MRT. Until then, wish me luck!

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At September 23, 2006 7:43 AM, Anonymous Hani said...

Hi, I'm also having difficulties in finding outdoor sports equipment in Singapore ... can you pls recommend one or two shops that have more options? Need to buy hiking shoes and others for Nepal's trekking preparation. Thanks. (

At September 23, 2006 11:00 AM, Blogger Ching said...

Happy to help!

I've posted a list of outdoor shop recommendations on the blog, enjoy your trip!


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