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Archive for the month “January, 2019”

Should Travelers Take State Department Advice? The Politics of Travel Warnings

statedept

Should Travelers Take State Department Advice?

The Politics of Travel Warnings

H. Bradford

1.30.19


First of all, I will admit that I have been writing about travel more often lately.  It is an easy topic to write about so I am being a bit lazy as a writer  (by contrast it took me over two weeks to write my November post about the history of World War I.)  With that said,  a travel topic that I have been thinking about lately is the politics of State Department travel advice.   Before heading to El Salvador, I checked the State Department’s website for travel warnings.   El Salvador is listed as “orange” on the State Department’s Travel Advisory Map.  Orange means that a traveler should “reconsider travel.”  This warning level is on account of violent crime and gang activity.  The warning is far from reassuring for a traveler, but, what exactly does the color coded system mean?  Further, the State Department is far from a neutral entity doling out useful travel advice.  It is one of the main instruments of U.S. imperialism.  With that said, I will explore this topic so that travelers can approach the State Department with skepticism.


Decoding the State Department’s Color Code:

The State Department divides the world into color coded warning levels.  There are seven warning levels: Red (Do Not Travel), Orange Striped (Reconsider travel-Contains areas with higher security risk), Orange (Reconsider travel), yellow striped (Exercise caution-areas with higher security risk), yellow (Exercise caution), colorless stripe (Exercise Normal Precautions – Contains Areas with Higher Security Risk), and colorless (Exercise Normal Precautions).  Thus, the State Department has developed a system of risk measurement based upon a nominal scale of colors and associated risks- with red being the highest risk and white being the least highest risk.  Because they are nominal, they don’t have any quantitative value.  For instance, very cold could appear on a nominal scale of weather.  But, what does very cold mean?  To someone from a tropical region, this could be 50 degree Fahrenheit.  To another individual, this could be -40 degrees Fahrenheit.  “Exercise Caution-Higher Security Risk” has about as much meaning as “very cold.”  Within this system, Orange is different from Striped Orange or Red, but precise difference is unknown.  Of course, risk is not easily measured and like “very cold” it depends upon who you are and your position in the world.  The map would look different for a rich, white, heterosexual male American than a poor, Black, lesbian, Muslim American.  A person’s risk in the world is impacted by access to resources that allow for safety.

Image result for state department travel warning map


The scale, while not particularly nuanced or scientific in its approach, creates a mental schema of how safe or unsafe the world is.  This schema is not entirely baseless.  After all, there is indeed crime and violence in El Salvador.  However, the color codes speak more about the relationship to the U.S. government and the rest of the world than travel risks.  For instance, Russia is categorized as yellow striped, on account of the risk of terrorism, harassment, and arbitrary enforcement of the laws.   Police harassment and arbitrary enforcement of the law is not a uniquely Russian phenomenon and while there may be some cultural and political norms regarding policing, police interactions are shaped by race, class, gender, nationality, religion, and basically, one’s relationship to state power.  Are Russian police fundamentally different from Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, Belarusian, Macedonian, or Georgian police?  None of these other countries bear warnings or warning levels as high as Russia’s (Albania and Georgia are colorless striped or two tiers safer and the other countries are not colored.)  Is Albanian really two tiers safer than Russia?  Russia’s safety level is also on account of instances of terrorism, but there are other countries with higher instances of terrorism with lower safety risks (such as Greece).  Granted, in 2017 there were 61 deaths in Russia on account of terrorism (according to Wikipedia).  Thailand is ranked two tiers lower in risk, but 72 people were killed in incidents of terrorism in 2017.  It seems to me that some of the ranking has more to do with countries that the United States does not get along with than actual risk. Image result for state department russia travel warning


Consider code red, or the highest level of risk.  There are few countries that are deemed entirely unfit for travel.  One is Yemen.  This makes sense.  The country is being blockaded, starved, and bombed by Saudi Arabia.  North Korea, on the other hand, is actually a very safe place to travel in terms of low crime, social stability, and lack of terrorism (but extremely unsafe for those entering illegally or with intent to challenge government authority).  Travel to North Korea resulted in the horrific and mysterious death of an American tourist, which is something which should not be minimized.  But, this death is deeply political and certainly given more media attention than horrific, mysterious, but less political deaths of tourists in countries friendlier to the United States.  For instance, in December, Carla Stefaniak was murdered in Costa Rica.  Her partially naked body was found near her AirBnB with a stab wound to the neck.  This death is horrific (though less mysterious since the murderer was found.)  Yet, Costa Rica is not pegged as an unsafe place to travel (striped and not colored).  Sexual violence against women does not spark the same fear and outrage as the state sponsored murder of a white male college student.  Sexual violence is commonplace and women are often blamed for their victimization.  The violence of a tyrannical state must be framed as exotic and uniquely cruel in order to justify U.S. imperialism, even if our own prison system routinely denies medical care to prisoners, as Otto Warmbier was denied adequate care during his North Korean imprisonment. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661478/  ).  This isn’t meant to defend North Korea, but simply to point out that tourists die in less politicized contexts without much alarm.  Saudi Arabia dismembered a journalist in a Turkish consulate and that country ranks as dangerous as Russia to travel to.   This garnered a great deal of media attention, but did not translate to warnings about Saudi Arabia.  So again, travel advisories are a reflection of the international relations of the United States.


Returning to El Salvador, the country is ranked as orange, which offers that one should reconsider travel.  Other “orange” countries include Chad, Nigeria, and Mauritania.  It seems there quite a qualitative difference between El Salvador and say…Chad.  Chad doesn’t have much for tourist infrastructure/industry, so a tourist is probably going to have a harder time insulating themselves from threats through the buffer of tourism.  For instance, Chad was visited by about 115,000 tourists in 2015, whereas El Salvador was visited by over 1.4 million tourists that same year.  Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world, is engaged in a fight against Boko Haram, is viewed by the international community as having a corrupt and authoritarian government, and also experiences violent rebellion in the north of the country.  I would think that there is a difference in travel to El Salvador than travel to Chad, even if El Salvador has high levels of crime.   Interestingly, the British government ranks Chad as a high travel threat and advises against all travel to the north of the country and border regions with only essential travel to the rest of the country.  In contrast, the British government deems El Salvador incident free for most travelers who exercise caution.  I am uncertain why the State Department would lump Chad and El Salvador together in the same category of danger unless this designation helps to support U.S. immigration policy, which seeks to portray Central American migrants as dangerous criminals and because Chad is such a non-entity to U.S. interests and travel that it doesn’t warrant a higher warning level. Image result for chad travel warning

British travel advisory map for Chad


We Make the World Unsafe:


Another flaw of the U.S. State Department’s color code system is that it doesn’t describe why countries are coded as they are.   For instance, in North and South America there are only two countries which are designated “striped orange” or the second highest level of threat.  These two countries are Venezuela and Honduras.  The State Department warns that in Venezuela there is the arbitrary arrest and detainment of American citizens.  The warning says citizens plural, which implies it may be a common occurrence.  In truth, an American citizen and former Mormon missionary named Josh Holt was arrested and spent two years in prison because it was believed by the Venezuelan government that he was stockpiling weapons and working for the CIA.  Weapons and incriminating documents were found at his residence in Venezuela, but his mother claimed these were planted.   It is difficult to know if this is a case of a framed innocent man or someone with terrorist intent.   However, what is known is that the travel dangers in Venezuela do not exist in a vacuum and some of the conditions are created and exacerbated by U.S. foreign policy.   For instance, the State Department warns travelers about the poor health infrastructure of Venezuela.   This fails to mention that U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela designed to force regime change by economically punishing the population into revolt and the economy into collapse.  These sanctions have prohibited debt restructuring, borrowing from financial institutions, and the convertibility of Venezuelan currency.  These tactics have made it harder to control hyperinflation and balance trade, which have contributed to murderous shortages of food and medicine.  Yes, Venezuela may not be the safest place to travel to, but it would be much safer if the United States had not actively sought to overthrow the government and punish the population. Image result for state department russia travel warning


The other high risk level country is Honduras.   The United States supported the 2009 coup in the country.  By recognizing the Lobo (temporarily Micheletti) government and refusing to acknowledge the coup, aid to Honduras could continue as normal, including military aid that has been used to murder dissenters.  Another consequence of our policy is that the tens of thousands of Hondurans who have fled the country are not recognized as political asylum seekers (to do so would be an admission that the U.S. supported government is indeed violently repressive).  The State Department offers that Honduras is unsafe due to crime.  Crime is an enormous topic that I have neither the time nor knowledge to address properly, but the crime in Central America is also a function of U.S. foreign policy.   Murders increased in Honduras after the 2009 coup.  The state has been behind some of these murders and state violence has empowered criminals, because violent crimes go unpunished or investigated.  In any event, the orange striped color code bestowed upon Venezuela and Honduras is interesting since both countries have experienced U.S. supported coups and both have been destabilized by U.S. foreign policy.  Thus, where a country falls in the color code system is often a result of U.S. meddling in that country.  It is little wonder that most of the “red” or do not travel to countries are countries the United States is or has recently been at war with or invaded, such as Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.


 

Alternatives:


If one accepts the premise that going to the State Department for travel advice is about as reliable as going to your fascist grandpa for dating advice, then what is the alternative?  (Note: my grandpas were cool and not fascists).   The main entity that issues travel warnings are various government institutions.  Every government has its own foreign policy interests and relationships and therefore biases in issuing warnings.  But, even if there was a progressive institution for the issuance of travel warnings, travel safety is not something which is easily measured.  For example, suppose there was a GDP type formula for travel danger.  Perhaps it would look like Natural Disasters + Crime + Terrorism + Disease+ Animal Attacks +Industrial Disasters = Risk.  Of course, there are other variables which could be included.  However, some variables may be weighted more heavily than others due to the severity of their impact and commonality.  An island that is literally nothing but an erupting volcano may not rank as high if it does not have crime, animal attacks, or terrorism.  The variable of  industrial disaster might be weighted more heavily depending upon the type of disaster.  For instance, a reactor leaking radioactive material is of greater concern than a factory full of vats leaking molasses.  There are probably some smart statistical and scientific people who could develop such a formula, but it seems that the variables are so expansive and subjective that this would not be easy.  An easy measure would be the number of tourist deaths or injuries per the total tourist population.  This would be useful information, but tourists may travel to “safe” destinations such as Iceland, but engage in dangerous behaviors (such as jumping into geysers or chartering private flights over erupting volcanoes).  Finally, as I mentioned before, safety differs depending upon one’s access to resources.  I have traveled to countries that rank pretty high on the State Department’s risk list, however, as a tourist, I am sheltered from some dangers.  For instance, when I hiked up a volcano in El Salvador, the tourists were escorted by a police officer.  The police officer is a state provided measure to ensure that tourists continue to visit the country and the volcano because they were not robbed or assaulted along the way.   Governments often want tourism because it generates economic activity, so measures are taken to make sure that tourists are safe (sometimes at the expense of local populations if this includes dislocating homeless populations, bans on begging, busking, or loitering, increased policing, development that dislocates people or drives up housing prices, etc.)  Aside from the protections enjoyed by tourists as a group, the relative safety of each individual tourist varies depending upon their class, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, ability, age, etc.  Perhaps an alternative to the State Department map would be a map of how unsafe you are depending upon different variables.  For instance, a traveler who is LGBTQ might find that many countries are unsafe due to restrictive laws and punishing social norms.

 

On the other side of the equation, travel warnings or safety advisories are pretty one sided.  It assumes that the victim is the tourist and that the danger in embedded in the destination.  It would be interesting to see a reverse map depicting areas that tourists make unsafe.   This sort of map would advise locals to avoid certain bars or neighborhoods that are frequented by tourists, lest they be physically assaulted by drunk tourists or sexually assaulted by entitled foreigners.  Tourists are not hapless victims of a dangerous world.  Tourists can create danger by vandalizing historic sites, defying local laws or customs, damaging environments, creating pollution,  abusing service industry staff, sexually exploiting minors, reckless behavior, etc.   In this case, Mali and Chad are comparatively safe….from tourists!


There probably is no answer of how safety can be measured.  It is a political question.  The question itself comes from a place of privilege.  There is no shame in wanting to be safe, but the ability to go somewhere else and even ponder safety comes from a place of relative privilege to most of the world.  At the same time, some places certainly are less safe on account of such things as war, disease, famine, or natural disasters.  Using government warning systems to gain some sense of safety isn’t useless since it can create a starting point for further investigation.  Ultimately, I don’t have an answer of how to gauge safety.  Usually, I ask myself if people like me travel to the destination without incident?  And, if there are incidents, what are they are how often do they happen?  What kinds of measures can be taken to avoid unsafe situations?  In the case of El Salvador, travel warnings did cause me some concern.   Even online forums were divided between it’s awesome and safe to some sentiments of absolutely don’t go!  So, when I was there alone for a few days, I didn’t venture out after dark and booked day trips in advance of my travel so that I could sight see in what I felt was a safe way.   I also stayed at a nicer hotel than would be typical if my travels (I usually am fine with hostels).   I felt extremely safe.  In this case, I was probably overly cautious.  If something terrible happens to me at some future date, I suppose I will be blamed for ignoring State Department advice.  At the end of the day, like anything else in the world, the best approach is probably seeking out a variety of sources to determine the safety of a destination.   Yes, this is pretty generic advice, but the main point that I wanted to convey is that the State Department is not the end all and be all of advice- in fact, its advice is shaded by U.S. relationships to the world and it is a significant reason why some countries are unsafe to begin with.


 

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Anxious Adventuring: Hiking Pacaya Volcano

hiking pacaya volcano

Anxious Adventuring: Hiking Pacaya Volcano

H. Bradford

1.17.19

I recently went on a short trip to Central America.  With only a short visit to Antigua, Guatemala, I wanted to try to make the most of my time in the country.  I figured that one way to do this would be to hike up a volcano.  After all, the country has at least 37 volcanoes, of which, three are considered active (others are extinct or dormant).  Pacaya is one of the three active volcanoes and one that tourists can easily access for hiking.  Another active volcano in Guatemala is Fuego Volcano, which made headlines when it erupted this past summer, killing 190 people (with over 200 people still considered missing as of October 2018) and displacing almost 3000 people.  The eruption was the largest in Guatemala for about 40 years and was followed by another eruption in November that resulted in the evacuation of 4000 people.  The nearby Pacaya volcano has been continuously active since the 1961 (Wnuk and Wauthier, 2016) and in a state of mostly mostly low grade eruptions since the 1990s, with a major eruption in 2010 that resulted in the evacuation of several thousand people, several deaths, and the destruction of land used for coffee growing.  Pacaya’s volcano tourism took off after this eruption as tourists were curious to see active volcanism (i.e. lava, tephra (volcanic ash, rocks, particles) (Steel, 2016).  Despite the destruction and human suffering wrought by active volcanoes in Guatemala, I wanted to visit a volcano and experience the dynamic geology of our planet first hand.  My main worry is that I was going to physically struggle with the hike.  And, I did!  But not for the reasons that I thought!  This is a story of a journey up a volcano, but also a voyage through sleeplessness.

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Before leaving for the U.S., I booked a hike through Grayline one of many “day trip” companies based in Antigua or Guatemala City.  My plan was that I would do the hike the morning after arriving in the country.   The particular tour that I purchased included a visit to a hot springs and lunch and was a little less than $100.  There are cheaper tours and more independent methods of travel, but I felt satisfied with the price and convenience.   In any event, I departed for my trip with the idea that I would be hiking up a volcano on the morning after my arrival.  This would not have been a problem but for a few complicating circumstances.  For one, I worked a night shift on Wednesday night, then left for my trip on Thursday (directly after the night shift).  I was able to get some fitful napping on my flights but did not fully sleep Wednesday or Thursday.  Furthermore, my flight from Houston was delayed for several hours due to weather elsewhere in the U.S. which had stalled the arrival of my plane and disrupted the flight schedules of the airport.  This meant that I actually arrived at my hotel in Antigua at 4:00 am Friday due to delays.  It also meant that I was awake for about 36 hours.  It also meant that I was committed to hiking up a volcano on a tour scheduled to pick up at my hotel at 6:30 am.  It was not going to be a fun hike.  I attempted to take a two hour nap before leaving for the hike, but failed to fall asleep.


I wearily watched the landscape pass from the window of the van that took me…and less than a dozen other tourists…to the volcano.   There were several large hills and we approached a very steep looking volcano.  I thought that perhaps this was the Pacaya volcano and dreaded the impossible hike ahead.  Thankfully, it was probably the Fuego volcano, which is about 4,000 feet taller than the Pacaya volcano.  The van veered away from the larger volcano to a park entrance, where we were descended upon by locals trying to sell/rent us walking sticks.  A walking stick would have been a great idea, but I felt a little overwhelmed and pressed through the crowd to the visitor’s center.  In retrospect, I should have supported the locals trying to make a little money from a volcano that might otherwise play a potentially dangerous or destructive roll in their lives.  After all, Pacaya has erupted 48 times since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala (Steele, 2016).   I felt vaguely nauseated from fatigue and not sure how I would tackle the hike ahead.  Our group assembled near the start of the trail, where we were offered horseback rides up the volcano.  Taking a horse cost about $15, which was a tempting idea but I went there to hike up a volcano and I was going to hike up a volcano!   Hiking was rough.  I felt dizzy with tiredness.  I felt like a zombie, pushing my brainless body forward and upward with immense effort.  I was slow.  The hike was a relentlessly steep hill that never ended.  There were no flat areas.  Just…up, up, up, up.  The only redeeming quality of the hike was that it was shaded by a forest.  I wanted to cry I was so exhausted.  By the time I was hiking, I had been awake for 40 hours (with some cat naps in chairs).  The 40 hours had consisted of a nine hour shift at the shelter, a van ride to Minneapolis, two flights, a flight delay, a late arrival to my hotel, pitiful tossing and turning in my hotel bed for two hours, around two hours drive from Antigua, then THIS, the hellish hike.  I took two caffeine pills that only seemed to make my head swirl.  With each step I contemplated how far I would go before I gave up.  All the way, my sluggish, slow self was hounded by horse escorts hoping that I would give in and take a horse the rest of the way.  No, no.  I’m okay.  I don’t need a horse.  I really don’t need a horse.  No, I’ll make it.  I’ve got this.  I’ve got this.  I checked my watch along the way.  I had read that the hike up only takes one to two hours.   At around the one hour mark we were told that we were close.  I heard two thunderous booms.  The explosive sound was exciting enough to re-energize me and I was able to complete the last 15 minutes or so through the treeless, drier viewing area.  It was hard all of the way.  I panted from exhaustion as I plodded along and cursed myself for signing up for the excursion.  But, I made it!  I made it!

Image may contain: Heather Bradford, standing, mountain, sky, cloud, nature and outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, cloud, mountain, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

 


The viewing area is not at the summit of Pacaya volcano, but it does offer a view of the summit as well as a view of nearby volcanoes.  The summit crater exudes smoke and gas, which can be seen from the viewing area below.  Another tourist I spoke with went on an evening hike and said that sparks can be seen flying from the summit crater.  This would be an impressive sight, but for her meant precariously hiking down the volcano in the dark.  The viewing area itself is located at about 7,500 ft above sea level and the summit is 8,373 ft above sea level.  It may feel a little disappointing that the tour does not take one to the very top, but I was happy to avoid hiking up the steep, hot looking slope.  According to blogger, Melinda Crow (2017), the actual hike to the viewing area is about two miles and covers an elevation change of about 1,300 feet or 650 feet per mile.  It felt challenging, but not absolutely impossible, as obviously I did the hike with minimal sleep.  In any event, I milled about the viewing area with the belief that the hike was done….but nope….the group then descended down some slippery dark rocks to a lava field.  This was discouraging as I had little interest in climbing back up or climbing up anything more.  I was quite content with the fact that we didn’t actually climb to the summit of the volcano as I was exhausted and it was hot and dusty out in the treeless black field of lava.  I could see a plume of smoke at the top of the volcano and was glad to be where I was.  The blackened valley featured a lava store and fumeroles wherein tourists could roast marshmallows.  This was a big attraction for me.  I had fantasized about roasting a marshmallow on the volcano, but with little sleep, mild nausea, and a strenuous hike behind me, I didn’t feel up to the task of digesting a puff of gelatin and sugar.   There was also a shop nestled in the valley, which sold souvenirs and I believe some snacks.  I really didn’t pay attention to the shop, as I was eager to begin the hike back while I had enough energy to keep myself from collapsing. The hike down was better.  The lava area was quite dry and the air was thick with dust.  My lungs were unhappy with me and I was glad to move away from the lava field and smoking crater.   The rocks on the way down were slippery, as they were often small and easily tumbled under my boots like the wheels of roller skates. Image may contain: one or more people, child, outdoor and nature Image may contain: Heather Bradford, standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, plant, outdoor and nature Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, outdoor and nature


Following the volcano hike, the group was rewarded with lunch and some time at some hot springs.  At that point, I had been awake far too long to have an appetite.  Oddly, being sleepy tends to make me more hungry, but at a certain point of sleep deprivation, even digestion seemed like too much effort.   I watched the others eat their meals while I sipped a diet coke.  After lunch, or my non-lunch, we all set off for the series of pools.  There were two levels of pools of varying degrees of heat.  The hot springs were actually a spa resort called Santa Teresita.  I had imagined that the hot spring would be an actual bubbling puddle of geothermal heated water.  This was far nicer.  The complex featured 11 pools and a thermal circuit of several pools that switch between warm and cool pools.  I probably didn’t do the correct cycle of the circuit, but it felt nice to just relax in warm water.  It was no substitute for sleep, but it was restful.  While I didn’t sleep, I did take some time to lounge on a beach chair and vegetate in the sun.   The hot springs were a fun addition to the trip, but also complimented the volcano hike well.  For one, it was soothing for my weary body and two, the hot springs found in Guatemala are near volcanoes, where water may be warmed by magma.  Pacaya volcano is located about 10 km southeast from Lake Amatitlan where the hot springs were located, so it is possible that the hot water that I found so relaxing was heated by Pacaya’s magma. (Warring, 1983).  I am not knowledgeable enough about geology to know this for sure, but it was neat to think about the hidden connections within the earth.

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When I returned to Antigua, I had been awake for 48 hours.  My day continued with a walk around my hotel to explore the city a little.  I also ate dinner with members of a travel group that I would be traveling with for about eight days.  This kept me up until 10 pm, in what was probably one of the longest spans of time that I had been awake in my life.  While it would seem that after hiking a volcano, working my shift, spending a day traveling, and then…walking and exploring, I might have fallen into a dead sleep.  NOPE, I could not fall asleep when I finally had an opportunity for REAL sleep!  I had pushed myself to stay awake for so long that awakeness had a terrible momentum of its own.  At that point, I didn’t feel like a human being.  Just some hollowed out husk flopped on a bed, with an empty, buzzing head and tired limbs.  I finally dozed off at midnight, but was up again at 4:30 am ish for a day tour to Lake Atitlan the next morning!


Based upon this experience, I would offer the following advice to other travelers.  One important lesson is to NOT book strenuous activities on the day after arrival…as arrival can be postponed by weather.  I didn’t have much choice since my time was limited and I felt compelled to maximize it.  Another obvious piece of advice would be to avoid working a night shift…then staying awake to travel.  I also could not avoid this because I wanted to squeeze the most out of my accrued vacation time.  Taking the night off would have meant exhausting nine more hours of accrued vacation time.  Vacation time is precious.  The loss of a day is one less day I get to spend somewhere else.   My need to work and desire to maximize my time set me up for a very unpleasant hike.  As another general piece of advice, wear sunscreen, a hat, and bring a bandana.  The sun is pretty intense, especially on the lava field.  So….I scorched myself.  Also, the air is heavy with particulates.  So much so that my lungs felt heavy.  Wearing a bandana over my face helped my to endure the worst areas.  Thirdly, while I had attempted to be in OKAY shape before the trip (by jogging several miles a few times a week, using a higher incline on the treadmill, and generally increasing the amount of exercise I was doing before the trip), I was still sadly out of shape and struggled up the hill.  I don’t think the hike is something that needs to be taken THAT seriously, as with patience and slow effort, almost anyone without complicating health conditions can probably complete the hike.  One lesson I have learned is that there really is no substitute for hiking hills (as treadmill incline really doesn’t seem to replicate the real impact of gravity).  A better idea might have been visiting a place with many stairs and just forcing myself to go up, up, up.   My biggest anxiety was over if I would be physically up for the task (as I would have felt embarrassed to be TOO out of shape) but I think this was unfounded.  It wasn’t THAT hard, but it was challenging.  A final piece of advice was carrying small binoculars.  I brought them along so I could watch for birds (I only saw some hummingbirds during the hike).  Aside from birding, I thought they were useful in getting a closer view of the summit (even if there was not much to see but smoke).   In the end, it was worthwhile.  It was arduous, but I can always look back and think…”remember the time you were awake for …like 40 hours…and climbed a volcano.  I think you can handle this.”


Sources:

Crow, M. (2017, September 24). The #TravelTruth About Hiking the Pacaya Volcano in 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from http://firstread.me/pacaya-volcano-2017/

Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupts again (2018, October 12) retrieved 16 January 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2018-10-guatemala-fuego-volcano-erupts.html

Steel, M. (2016, September 20). Travels in Geology: Guatemala’s Volcan Pacaya: A feast for the senses. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/travels-geology-guatemalas-volcan-pacaya-feast-senses

Warring, G. (1983). Thermal Springs of the United States and Other Countries, a Summary (Geological Survey Professional Paper, pp. 1-400, Rep. No. 492). Washington: United States Government Printing Office.

Wnuk, K., & Wauthier, C. (2016). Temporal Evolution of Magma Sources and Surface Deformation at Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala Revealed by InSAR (Doctoral dissertation, Pennsylvania State University).

other useful source:

https://www.science.gov/topicpages/p/pacaya+volcano+guatemala

 

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