Maintaining good health and a high standard of personal hygiene is a must for completing your trek across the trail. Please read this section carefully so that you are fully aware of issues you may encounter.
We purchase all our food from the supermarkets in Port Moresby however we are finding it increasingly difficult to cater for some of the allergies people have to some foods.
It is essential that you advise Tracie at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any special dietary requirements at the time of booking. If we are not able to obtain these in Port Moresby we will advise you to bring the food you require with you. It should be packed and labelled with your name. If this is necessary you should bring a receipt for the cost of the food with you and we will reimburse you in PNG.
There is plenty of water along the trail however always check with your guides that the creek or stream is OK before you refill your water bladders as some are located downstream near villages. You must also bring water purification tablets to sterilise your water to ensure you don’t pick up any bugs.
You will also need to bring electrolyte replacement tablets or powder to compensate for loss of salt due to excessive sweating. A word of warning though - mix and drink electrolytes according to instructions because if you absorb more than your body needs to replace those lost in sweat it will have the reverse effect and cause you to become dehydrated.
Rule of thumb is one dose of electrolyte for every two litres of water consumed. Ensure you drink at least every 15 minutes during the first few days whilst your body is acclimatising to the tropical conditions.
You are at great risk of heat exhaustion while your body acclimatizes to the hot and humid tropical conditions so it is important to drink plenty of water often during the first few days.
An early sign of dehydration is concentrated urine (dark straw colour) and reduced frequency of urination. If this occurs, drink more water and electrolyte drinks. Monitor yourself closely.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body cannot lose heat fast enough. If not treated quickly, it can lead to heat stroke which is a much more serious condition. If heat exhaustion is recognized and treated promptly, the effects can be reversed.
The symptoms can often occur suddenly. They are:
- Feeling hot, weak and fatigued
- Often pale/ashen colour with cool, clammy skin
- Sweating profusely
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Severe muscle fatigue or cramping
- Headache, thirst, or nausea
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Giddiness or faint
- Loss of appetite
- Sometimes heat exhaustion can result in visual hallucinations and vomiting.
- Stop walking and move to a cool place!
- Drink plenty of water and electrolyte replacement drinks. Drink half-a-glass of fluid every 15-20 minutes. Do not drink alcohol or caffeine
- Lay down and elevate your legs slightly
- Loosen your clothing
- Bring your temperature down with cool sponging
In most cases you will begin to feel better within 30 minutes. If symptoms do not improve or they worsen, medical evacuation will need to be arranged.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s normal cooling system fails to function. It can be fatal as a result of heart failure, kidney failure or brain damage caused by the excess body heat. If left untreated, a person with heat stroke can slip into a coma and die.
Symptoms of heat stroke:
- Elevated core body temperature
- Hot, dry, flushed skin (not sweaty)
- Pounding, rapid pulse which gradually weakens
- Confusion, dizziness and visual disturbance, leading to unconsciousness
- Headache, nausea or vomiting
- Trek leader to arrange for immediate evacuation by satellite phone or VHF radio
- Remove most clothing
- Apply cold water to neck, groin and armpits – fan to assist cooling.
- Trekker will need to be moved on a stretcher or carried
Any alteration in your own or someone else’s condition should be reported to the Trek Leader. The Carriers or other trekkers are usually close by to send messages while you stop to attend to someone or stop to treat yourself.
It is everyone’s responsibility to “look out” for each other.
Personal Health and Hygiene
The tropics can be unforgiving on the body if one is not strict in the area of personal hygiene. There are ample opportunities to wash and bathe and to rinse your clothes. Make sure you maintain a high standard of personal discipline in this area and you will be OK.
It is imperative that you wash your hands before meals and after toilet stops. We recommend you use an antibacterial hand gel which can be purchased from chemists for this purpose.
Make sure your boots are comfortable and well-worn in. We also recommend you bring three (3) pair of trekking socks – one to wear; one to have hanging off your backpack to get dry; and one bone dry pair in your pack for the evening.
Socks are extremely important - a good natural/breathable fabric that will not retain too much heat, such as cotton/wool mix, is recommended. Look for socks with ‘Coolmax’ technology.
Plan to look after your feet. Each night you will have the opportunity to thoroughly wash your feet with Dettol antiseptic soap. You should then dry them and apply a liberal covering of anti-fungal foot powder. Next morning we recommend you apply Tea Tree Oil to your feet and Bepanthen antiseptic cream if your boots and socks are wet.
If you get mud in your boots it is likely that bacteria will stay in your socks and the inner sole of your boot. In this circumstance it is a good idea to wash your socks and the inner of your boots with Dettol antiseptic soap at the end of the day.
Blisters should not be a problem if you have a good pair of trekking boots that fit your feet properly. Nevertheless it is a wise precaution to have a blister kit with you. Dr Scholl kits are recommended.
Know your feet! Get to know where your feet are prone to blisters. Cover these areas with strapping tape before the event. Prevention is much better than treating blisters afterwards.
Clip your toenails. Short toenails help prevent pressure and bruising.
Wartime journalist Osmar White – author of Green Armour – wrote that he spent 20 minutes pampering his feet at the end of each day during the Kokoda campaign!
We recommend – from personal experience – that you commit to the same discipline – ‘fungal foot’ is not a pleasant condition!
Contact lenses are not recommended for the trek. Charlie Lynn recently got an Acanthamoeba parasite in his eye.
The Acanthamoeba parasite lives in water and soil and can hitch a ride on contact lenses, then invade a vulnerable eye and destroy the cornea.
Charlie was wearing multi-day lenses. After the parasite lodged in his cornea It caused blindness in his right eye and the infection then spread to his left eye which caused partial blindness. He was evacuated from the trail and spent almost four weeks in the Sydney Eye Hospital. It is not known at this stage whether the sight will be fully restored to his right eye.
Some do prefer to wear contact lenses on the trail. If you do decide to wear contact lenses and wish to avoid a devastating infection you should:
- Wear 30 day or weekly lenses;
- never immerse your head under water on the trail;
- rinse eyes with disinfecting solution every time after bathing;
- never wear contact lenses when your eyes are irritated or if you suspect you have even a tiny scratch, remove lenses and soak overnight and flush eyes with disinfecting solution;
- never allow lenses or cases to come in contact with tap water;
- never swim with contact lenses in, even in a chlorinated pool’;
- don’t shower with contact lenses in your eyes;
- do not keep lenses or solutions past their expiry date;
- do not wear lenses for longer periods than your eye professional recommends;
- always carefully follow your eye professional’s instructions for cleaning contact lenses; and
- a lens cleaning routine that requires rubbing is preferable to one that only requires soaking
The Acanthamoeba parasite is spiny amoeba that produces spiny pseudopodia as they move slowly along. They are about five times the size of a human red blood cell and are large as far as microbes go, but still too small to be seen with the naked eye.