by Sue Freeman
I’ve always relied on my Leki hiking poles. Rich had a pair while we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1996 and I got a pair shortly afterward. My knees suffered, while his, supported by the Leki poles, fared much better. Since then we’ve hiked many miles across Spain, across England, along the International Appalachian Trail, on the Bruce Trail, up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and on and on …. always using our Leki poles.
Recently we headed south to hike the jungle of Panama on the Camino Real Trek. Ancon Expeditions, the tour company we chose, insisted that each participant use a pair of hiking poles. The Camino Real was the cobble road used by the Spanish in the 14th century to transport their plunder across the isthmus of Panama to load on ships and ferry it back to Europe. Of course, over the many intervening years the jungle obscured the cobble road and even the deep ruts made by the mule carts. In essence, what we did was to follow behind an Embera guide as he cleared a swath through the jungle with a machete. To us it appeared we were going cross-country – up steep hills, down across water-washed trenches, splashing through streams. But, each day, the guide pointed out remnants of the Spanish Road. It was amazing that he could find them in this massive jungle.
But, my point is trekking poles. Most in the small troupe who tramped across the jungle relied on Leki poles. The Lekis fared well in this harsh and unforgiving environment. In contrast, one couple carried poles made by a German company “GS.” On the first day of the trek the woman severely bent one of her poles. On another day, the other pole bent under heavy use. Here we were, in the middle of a jungle, far from roads or any signs of civilization, relying heavily on our trekking poles for stability on slippery and steep terrain, and this poor woman had two bent poles because she went with an off brand.
Sometimes (like when your life depends on it) it’s money well spent to purchase good gear. Long live our Leki hiking poles!
By the way, I strongly recommend the Camino Real Trek by Ancon Expeditions for anyone in good physical condition who enjoys the diversity of learning history, sampling local culture and cuisine, communing with nature, and a challenging physical endeavor … all led by the most knowledgeable and friendly guides. Click here to watch a YouTube video of the trek, starting with a dug-out canoe ride, then followed by a walk through the jungle.