Bearded Guide: Half the success of a hike depends on having good shoes and socks

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– How did your love for hiking and active leisure time begin?

– Probably, this is my way of life. I moved all the time, and so does my growing son. Of course, I haven’t hiked all my life.

It all started in 2017, when I participated in the project “Mission Siberia” – there was a hike. I put on a 60 liter backpack for the first time in my life and I really liked it. I was fascinated by the challenge of packing up and going with a bunch of people. You go for a common historical goal and the thought crosses your mind: “How far can you go?” Then, although maybe not immediately, my hiking trips began.

It turned out that I went without sleep for the first 100 kilometers

I walked 40, 50 kilometers, and later, on the TrenkTuro ride, 60 kilometers. I wanted to go even further.

In the end, it turned out that I went without sleep for the first 100 kilometers. That is the only time I have walked such a distance alone. I walked around Vilnius as soon as the 100-kilometer sightseeing trail was created. Then I started taking other people on hikes – companies started hiring me to lead one more hike (it wasn’t my main job). Someone just said, “With him.” cool go.” Then I started marching steadily. When the pandemic hit, I had free time – that’s what I went for.

Everyone’s love for hiking comes from different reasons. I like to challenge myself, others like crowds of people, and others just enjoy time spent in nature. I’m glad people are going. We have to move – the body will thank you. I always encourage you to start walking. At least around your area.

The first organized hike was during the pandemic

– When did you start organizing hikes not only for yourself, but also for other people?

– In 2020, I led the first group of people on a hike. We walked 100 kilometers around Kaunas. At that time, the bans of the pandemic were still valid: we could only go at seven or eight. I gathered people who had never walked more than 50 or 60 kilometers.

It happened that we went around Kaunas in 26 hours. It wasn’t a brisk walk, but I was like a guide and led people into that mini-dream. I will never forget the participant Ugnė, whose “fuel” was her sister’s saying: “Ha, you won’t go.” Ugnė told me that she would show her sister and go. There were moments when it was difficult for her, but she walked with determination and believed that her sister was wrong. Then I saw that I was good at leading hikes.

TrenkTur liked how I did it, so now I run another ride for them every now and then. The tourist centers of Raseiniai, Kėdainiai started hiring me to form a route, guide people, and tell them about the surroundings.

What is different about my “product” (that’s what I call my hikes now) than other people’s? I give off a lot of energy. I give the person the feeling that I care that he is here. I try to gather groups that do not exceed 40 people, so that I can talk to each person, find out what they are doing, why they came to the hike. A hike is not a blind trade. I want a person to take something away from it. A lot of people gathered for my birthday walk: there was no silence during the whole walk, we walked off-road.

I’m about to go on my third SOP (specially optimized for breaking) hike with a new group of people. We will go 100 kilometers again.

People come back for other hikes. I’m glad that they get from me not only a hiking route and a story about the surroundings, but also my energy, which I try to transmit to them. I want to be a super wizard. I prepare for every hike and aim for the person who leaves my hike to recommend me to others, so that they too come to hike together and absorb good energy.

Everyone’s love for hiking comes from different reasons. I like to challenge myself, others like huge crowds, and still others just enjoy time spent in nature

– How did you manage to organize the very first march, to which more people were invited? Was it difficult to prepare and were there any unforeseen situations?

– In my first big hike, only 7 people could participate due to the pandemic, so I wrote to a few people who were a little active and wanted to hike.

There were two girls – Inga and Ugnė. They asked me: “Is it possible to walk that far?” I answered that it was possible. They weren’t hikers, but they had a month to prepare. The girls did homework, walked, bought things. There were also a couple of older people who had more experience but were slower.

I tell each hiker at the beginning of the hike that they are only now a company of strangers, but during the hike they will become family. I want them to care about each other even though they are strangers. It worked for me from the first hike.

– How do you choose a hiking route? Do you organize hikes only in Lithuania?

– I haven’t done it abroad yet, only for myself and a couple of friends. I have a system, programs with which I create hiking routes. I can roughly make a route to any place in Lithuania. Even now, in any district of Skuod, I could create a route.

If I see that, for example, there are swamps or forests on the route, I go to the place and cross the route. If I am hired, I always do it. And when I try to go on a course I’ve made, I always find a way around or through those swamps and forests, but I always try to find harder road conditions to make it a little more interesting and challenging.

I already know what to expect after seeing certain terrain. I know what I want from the upcoming hike. I sit down and create a route within a few hours, and the next day I drive and cross. I also prepare historical stories and add stories about natural objects. I want to surprise my hikers with interesting stories, and I usually succeed.

I tell each hiker at the beginning of the hike that they are only now in the company of strangers, but during the hike they will become family name.

– Have you encountered an unusual event during the hike?

– I immediately remembered the situation when my friend fell from the slope when we were walking alone. We filmed videos, laughed (we like off-road, unconventional terrains, so we often go through difficult conditions). Then I climbed a rather steep slope and said to my friend: “Now you go down.”

He was holding the phone in his hand and taking a video, and then he slipped and fell. He fell on his head, but the weight of his backpack weighed him down and my friend successfully flipped off the cliff. I stood frozen for maybe two or three seconds, because if that backpack hadn’t weighed down my friend, he might have twisted his neck. It was uncomfortable, but I have never had such situations before.

I think I plan my hikes very well. However, there have also been funny situations. It happens that you cross streams, rivers: sometimes you fall in, and sometimes you don’t. Once we walked where there was a 2 meter stream that we had to jump over. If there is no doubt, a grown man can jump over him at full speed. If in doubt, you can slip.

One person sped up, stopped a meter before, and continued to run. He almost jumped over and then fell backwards into the river. Actually, it was quite wet. But anyway, I haven’t been in such situations where someone got hurt, except for that first situation with my friend.

Personal archive photo/During the hike

– How should you properly prepare for a longer hike?

– More than half of the success of a hike depends on whether you have good hiking shoes and socks. Hiking socks are very important. If you don’t believe you need them, you don’t know what a good hiking sock is. It helps prevent the formation of blisters on the leg and keeps the leg dry. Good hiking boots should also be adapted to your foot. If you rub your feet, you will suffer. This is why hiking boots and socks are so important.

Of course, layering is important when hiking. It really depends on the season, but as winter approaches, we layer up. It is important to have a good raincoat, foot powder, plasters, disinfectant liquid. However, all the things that should be taken on a hike are very dependent on the weather conditions.

– Has it ever happened that people come to your hike unprepared and therefore don’t get the experience you’re trying to provide?

– Yes. When I collect a group for this hike, I talk to people: I ask the initial questions, why they want to go, where they found me, what their preparation is. I ask: “Why do you suffer here?” It’s going to be a tough ride here, really tough.”

If a person passes this stage, we have a conversation, and after that, I “throw” people who want to go on a hike into a common Facebook group and upload a list of things and various tips there.

Last year there were two people who liked posts but didn’t read them. Let’s say I put a list of items in the group, let them know that there will be obstacles and how to prepare for them. I saw that people saw the post, but when they came to the hike, they didn’t have some things. It’s too late to worry about it on the hike.

People did their homework too poorly and ended up rubbing their feet because they had bad shoes, bad socks. At 55-60 kilometers, both could no longer continue the march. Here was a lesson for them.

More than half of the success of a hike depends on whether you have good hiking shoes and socks.

Now I write a note to each of them separately, asking how they are, how they are getting ready, whether they have read the list of things. I ask them to tell me what they have and what they don’t have. I try to talk one-on-one because I want people to have one of the best adventures of their lives. You need to prepare for it, and sometimes it is impossible, so I try to reduce this possibility.

200 km without sleep

– In the future, you want to walk 200 kilometers without sleep. What is the meaning of such long hikes?

– I organize such trips only for myself. I have a couple of hit friends with whom we walked 170 kilometers in Latvia last year: we lasted 47 hours, we walked along the beach. This year, during Midsummer, we will probably walk 200 kilometers in Estonia. I don’t know how long we will last. shall we go I don’t know either. But I love both homework and the thrill of not knowing if I’ll succeed. But I believe in it and I am preparing for it.

We’ll go and see how it goes. I don’t know how the body will react, but that’s what’s interesting. See how the body reacts. When we walked 170 kilometers, we started dozing in Liepaja, then we jumped into the sea. And such a hike is exhausting for the body. He doesn’t need it, but for me it’s miles of happiness. I like nature, I like challenges. I don’t like the finish line, but the whole process.

Personal archive photo/Matas Toliušis, better known as Bearded Guide, and his hikers

– You were a teacher of history and citizenship. Why did you leave school?

– For three years I “served”, as I joke, at school. Now I also “sit” in the same school, because I am still the leader of the hiking club, but I no longer teach classes. I see a lot of meaning in school, but I no longer see myself there. The education system is very flawed and I support all teachers who are on strike. For many years they were told that everything would be fine, but there are still a lot of loopholes.

I want to talk not only about schoolchildren in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda. I care about the students who are also in, say, Pabrade or Skudos district – they don’t have as many opportunities. Admittedly, even working in a private school cannot pay enough. It might not sound very motivating, but I see the point of this job, I just don’t want to be at school right now. Maybe I’ll be back sometime.

– You have a hiking club at school. What are the students’ opinions about marching?

– Students do not see the purpose of hiking a lot, but there is a group that wants to participate in activities every year. We learn to work with tracks, radios, and tie knots. I kept that circle because I see the meaning in it. Some children need it, they are curious. Such students make me interested in being at school.

Vilnius University Society of Young Journalists (VU JŽD) is an initiative uniting schoolchildren and students, the goal of which is to bring together young people with various journalistic interests from all over Lithuania and allow them to fulfill their creative potential in practice.


The article is in Lithuanian

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