The word “trekking” used to conjure up scary notions for me, among them, “mud”, “dirt”, “tiring”, “tiresome”, “sweat”, “pain” and other similar ideas.
So, no, I””m not an outdoor-typa gal.
Yet you see above a picture of me clad in muddy Nikes, cargo shorts with a 12kg Dobbes on my back in a rugged baby knapsack. The Dior sunnies are admittedly the only thing that are believably me.
But it IS indeed me, trekking amidst rice-fields in the early morning bearing Dobbes on my back. It was one of the most eye-opening, meaningful and exhilarating experiences I have ever had.
In case you didn””t already know, “trekking” is “walking”.
Obviously you can take the notion of walking to different extremes, depending on the speed, terrain and climate conditions. Being that we are amateurs (except possibly Mobbes, who is used to route marches in the army) to this, we chose to do a village trek and a ricefield trek while in Bali.
I would say it is moderately challenging. Actually it would probably be easy if I didn””t have to carry Dobbes. But as it was, I managed to cope faily well during the three hours at a relatively brisk pace. We started out at about 6.30am and were back at the hotel before 10.
Indiana Jones-like swaying bridge
Picking and smelling fresh Balinese ginger
It helped that we had a good guide for the experience. Gusti works for Ubud Hanging Gardens, the hotel we were staying at in Gianyar. He was extremely knowledgable about the plants and vegetation of the countryside, being a farmer himself. His own rice-fields were not in a very well-irrigated location. We did not visit them but walked along a route where there were many very fine ones.
Seeing such vistas, coupled with the hard work of clambering up and down steep, muddy hills added another meaning to our adventure together in Bali. It was all very nice and luxurious, staying at five star resorts and being picked taken care of by a concierge service but beyond that, Mobbes and I were looking at other ways we can learn along with Dobbes.
And he definitely had a lot of fun, breating in fresh air and seeing things that he would not encounter at home…
For instance, views like this one.
Meeting friendly faces.
Seeing ducks that don””t have a lisp nor wear a sailor””s suit…
And all about kampung-style living.
Gusti invited us to his house in the nearby village of Buahan (fruits in Bahasa Indonesia) so we were lucky enough to see what a typical Balinese village house was like.
He served up some delicious home-grown/ground coffee made from the strong-flavoured Robusta beans.
We also had some pink Balinese sweets that looked like bird””s nests. Gusti told us that his two children were still in school that day. His wife had passed away about a year and a half ago and was still saving up for her cremations ceremony.
Cremation ceremonies are abig deal in Bali. Death is a celebration of a life well lived and also to honour the beloved person. The Balinese would prepare a feast of various types of meats to beshared with the entire village. Often, the cost of a cremation ceremony is so lavish those mourning deaths would club together every five years to save a little money.
It was the final leg back towards the hotel and Gusti – who had offered to carry Dobbes quite a few times during the trek – finally convinced me to extricate Dobbes from the Patapum.
My back was on fire after 3 hours, but it was worth every second. To have Dobbes with me, soaking in the sights and present as we visited and connected with people, made our Bali trip all the more real and compelling than sheltered encounters with palaces and pools.
A couple of days later, we visited Pelaga (which means “nutmeg”) village. This time Mobbes had Dobbes on the back as we did a village trek and harvested coffee beans.
We””re looking forward to more trekking adventures overseas as a family. I don””t think we will ever be the fully-rough-it-out kind of family; I””m not much for tents, no electricity and cold showers. For that reason, maybe mountain climbing is not for us. We would rather travel on relatively flat terrain where we would meet people, see beautiful flora and fauna as we walk and take nice pictures without the lens fogging up too much.
Here is our handy kit for trekking with baby:
1. For yourself, the parent: a good pair of trail-runners. There is really no need to get expensive ones. My Nikes served me very well. The downsides to the shoes were that they were not waterproof and the soles can get a wee bit slippery. But if you are not planning to trek for more than three hours without a break, then such shoes are fine.
Mobbes was wearing his free Asics trainers from his NS days.
2. A good baby carrier.
We used two. I highly recommend the Patapum toddler front/back carrier. It can support up to 28kgs, so it is a worthwhile investment. Even later on when Dobbes is a little older and can walk on his own, I””d still bring the Patapum so that I can carry him comfirtable when he gets tired.
It””s also a great urban baby carrier, really easy to use and stow away.
If you””re doing something more hardcore, like say, trekking in a jungle or on a longer journey across the Dolomites, use a baby carrier developed by a reputable backpack-maker like Deuter or Tatonka. Ours is the latter and it is extremely durable and comfortable to use. It is collapsible and you can check it in as a piece of luggage by putting it in a Tatonka slip-cover bag (which we also stuff our shopping in, going back).
Read up more about Patapum here and you can buy it from baby Slings and Carriers at Square2 at Novena.
3. Bring nothing except what you really, REALLY need.
Especially if you are the one carrying baby.
As you can see in the photos, I only carried Dobbes and my hotel room card key in my pocket along with a bit of cash. There was one emergency diaper and a pack of wet wipes in the pocket of the carrier (or perhaps it was in Mobbes”” camera bag…)
Anyway, you kind of have to weather what happens (and that includes rain). It””s part of the fun. Don””t stray too far away from help/conveniences; this should be fairly easy if you have a good guide with you. And of course if you know you””re going to be walking for 3 hours, give baby some sustenance beforehand and tuck a biscuit in your pocket for when he gets peckish.
4. Wear wraparound sunglasses that fit.
You””ll need both hands to steady yourself/grab at roots/your guide””s wrists as he heaves you up a particularly steep incline. So you don””t want to be worrying about losing your expensive designer Jackie-Os. Like me.
And this does not mean you need to get Oakleys either; any cheap no-label versions will do fine (especially if you end up losing them/offering them to a village kid as a gift).
Having said all this, trekking – extreme or otherwise – is really not for everyone and especially not for every baby/parent/family. You know your people best. Maybe in a couple of years Dobbes suddenly develops an allergy towards dirt or sunlight (or maybe I will).
The point is to always be willing to experience something new, no matter how tedious, troublesome or unlikely it is. The times when you are willing to get out of your comfort zone will probably also be the times when you will find unusual rewards and the additional gift of discovering a little bit more about yourself.