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Trails for Africa Trail preparation

Any trail requires some preparation and acclimatisation. Do not assume because you are very fit in one discipline that you won't have any problems in another. It is often not exhaustion which makes a trail unpleasant but wear and tear on limbs that are not used to being used all day every day.

Never underestimate the harsh African sun. For fair skinned people a wide brimmed hat, sunblock and a longsleeved cotton shirt with collar are essential. Sunburn is very unpleasant and Heatstroke can kill you in a very short space of time.

Hiking trails work your feet, knees and hips with the shoulders also taking some strain. The first thing to go if you have not prepared or are using new shoes (very silly!) are your feet, and once you have blisters they only get worse. The knees are next due to the heavy loads carried downhill. If your backpack does not fit you properly and is not properly packed then add bruised hips and shoulders to the list. Also, once one part of you is in pain the others try and compensate but this invariably just transfers the pain to a new area.

Kayaking trails are a little more forgiving but blistered hands are just as painful as blistered feet. Tendonitis in the wrist and forarm is also a real possibility for the unprepared. Your butt will take a lot of strain in a constantly damp environment. Dubbin or vaseline may be helpful as a hand and butt sealer/lubricant applied before you start the day. Reflected sunlight only adds to the already harsh African sun so full sun protection is essential.

Horse riding trails may seem to require no preparation, but just because the horse is doing most of the work don't be fooled. Once your inside thigh and calf muscles have been rubbed raw you may change your mind, not to mention the lower back and butt which keep your swaying body upright. Jodhpurs are a good idea.

So, unless you enjoy constant pain and suffering, get the right equipment and get fit in the required discipline! Walk, paddle or ride the distance of an average trail day at least 4 times in the month before you do the real thing. New equipment should be thouroughly worn in. If you do this then your trail experience will be vastly improved and besides the preparation will be fun.

Normally you will have a guide who is trained in basic first aid, but if not then we reccommend that at least one member of your party has some form of first aid training. It is a useful skill and may save your life or a friends some day.

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