Bags and Boots

The adventure continues

Bags and Boots

Boots (or rather shoes)

We walk a lot anyway and when on holidays, the total kilometres we cover daily increases immensely as our curiosity takes us further and further into places of interest. Typically we wear a light runner without any special bounce bubbles like the Nike Air or similar. I am sure they are fantastic but we have been happy with the Free Run models. Given our destinations in South America, we thought we would need shoes that were a little more sturdy. I hasten to add that Nike and most brands have trekking-style shoes in their catalogues as well, but that wasn’t where we were guided. If you are a watcher and not a reader, the video follows…

After asking around we were guided to the Merrell brand of shoe, in particular, the one referred to as MOAB or Mother of All Boots. Catchy term and today I bought a pair. Not the full gore-tex waterproof version, but a version that is a black-coloured hiking shoe, not a boot. The actual model I bought was the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vented Low Hiking Shoes Black. For those who want to point out that the Moab 3 range is out, I decided to buy these because they were on clearance and if I decide I don’t like them, I will have only spent $100 AUD and not $230. Why shoes and why black? I hope to take just one pair of shoes on this journey. The soles on my Nike shoes wear out and the last thing I want is to slip while scrambling over rocks on the Galapagos Islands or on the banks of the Amazon River. Even though we will be walking in some trek-like situations, much more time will be spent in and around towns, cities, markets and places not requiring hard-core trekking boots.

Helen is looking at shoes and she may choose a brand other than Merrell.

It is important to break new shoes in well before we head off. With the much firmer sole and tread it takes a little while to get used to. I immediately had a sense of more traction when walking although a suburban shopping centre is not a Patagonian trekking trail. I will report back as these will be both my work and walking shoes prior to our departure in November. About that shopping centre…

Side Story – Comfort Food (Jian Bing 煎饼)

After purchasing the shoes I immediately put them on before we headed to Box Hill and lunch. Box Hill is a suburb in Melbourne with a strong Asian community, mainly Chinese in ethnicity. I say ethnicity as many folks originate from countries other than China, for example, Vietnam, but identify as Chinese Vietnamese. Living in Australia, shopping and socialising in a place like Box Hill brings together the nuances of many countries and cultures into the concentration of a shopping centre. We understand in Peru there is this cultural fusion between Japanese and Peruvians which extends into food as well. Looking forward to that.

We were there to eat a classic comfort food called a “Jian Bing” which is a crepe with an egg cracked onto one side, flipped and smeared with a red flavoursome bean paste with a very mild chilli flavour. A “You Tiao” 油条 – a deep-fried skinny french stick about the size of a churro is placed on the crepe and a liberal sprinkling of spring onions and small slices of a slightly sour tangy pickled vegetable called “Suan Cai” – If you don’t like pickles on your burger then I’d order your Jian Bing without this. I love it and it is the sign of a genuine Jian Bing when they are included.

As a struggling university student in China walking the streets of Beijing in mid-winter many years ago, street sellers of Jian Bing were my refuelling stop for a little warm sustenance before continuing on. For about 10 cents I could get a hot savoury protein and carb hit served up with a smile. Thirty-five years later in outer Melbourne, they still taste just as good and for $7.80 cut into two so you can share with a friend, it’s still a bargain.

There are two Jian Bing sellers in the food court at Box Hill Central. We tried the traditional basic one from both… you can get all kinds of add-ons. Ham is very popular, converting the dish into a kind of bacon and egg pancake roll.

Which was the better? They both tasted good, but I would say that the old saying about going to the place that has the most customers eating their food is true in this case although the other location was cheaper by 30c. Both tasted good as mentioned, but only one of the shops added the pickled vegetable and the You Tiao was freshly cooked, not reheated. If you know how to make crepes at home and have a crepe maker, this is an easy tasty dish for a weekend comfort food fix with friends.

Sharing a JIan Bing (Savoury Chinese Crepe) at Box Hill in Melbourne after shoe shopping


Bags, backpacks and luggage, in general, are proving to be more of a challenge to make a decision on. We want to be the cabin baggage travellers, the non-checker in of baggage, but on a four-month trip in a variety of climates from hot to cold and wanting to take camera gear and laptops we are struggling.

There are many considerations, but two are enforced by homeland security and airlines. One is what you can take on aircraft in terms of liquids and powders. Remember regardless of what volume is in the bottle, or tube, it is the volume listed on the container. 100ml in a 250ml container will still be thrown out. Also, your cabin baggage size will vary depending on the size of the aircraft you fly in and your class of travel. Of course, anything that could be classed as a weapon should be reviewed. An emery board rather than a metal pointed nail file is an example.

The current thinking is for two carry-on 40-litre backpacks with a tote bag each (camera bag in my case) and a bum bag each. A collapsable soft duffel bag for potential check-in of items we don’t care if we lose is the other thing we are thinking of. I really hope we don’t need to check in any luggage and that means we need to think about fluid bottle sizes

Good zips, easy to carry, secure from pickpockets and cabin bag size compliant while being strong and light with overnight bag style opening for easy access to the main storage chamber is what we are looking at. Oh and we want to spend around $100, not $500 which is what we saw some backpacks selling for.

I have a Vans and Macpac bum bag which can be worn eshay (parental guidance recommended on philosophies discussed in this link) style slung over a shoulder like a bandolier and under a jacket or shirt for extra security. It is surprising how much I can fit into that small bag. I also have an Antler camera bag which has been with us on almost all trips for 20 years. It has needed restitching, but it is a great bag with four pockets in addition to the main bag area.

Day Three of Wearing the MOAB Shoes

The first couple of days my feet hurt. Then today when I walked down to our local post office to get a passport photograph set, I wore the shoes again and my feet really hurt. I thought that I had made a tragic mistake. These shoes are supposed to be the most comfortable and they were killing my feet.

I got home, or rather hobbled home and took my socks off to find that because I hadn’t trimmed my toenails in a while, they had cut into my adjacent toes which were bleeding. I then found that I had not loosened the lower part of the shoelaces to cater for my short, but flipper-like foot. Toenails trimmed, betadine and bandaids applied and shoelaces loosened. Rookie mistake and now oddly enough I am pain-free when I walk in these shoes.

We still haven’t decided on what our main bags will be, although we are definitely tending towards the 40-litre backpack.


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