The world is a pretty dangerous place of late- but Raja and I do not plan to give up on our adventures, although our style has been somewhat cramped. Three years ago, we were slated to go to Nepal to trek (as close as I can get Raja to his Himalayan roots), but the Maoists were holding out in the villages and countryside as part of Nepal’s political unrest. Trekkers brushed off the danger in their blogs saying that they just gave the Maoists a few thousand rupees, were given a receipt and were allowed to trek on. Hmmm. But don’t a foreign woman and her fluffy dog (in orange rubber boots) look like a prime opportunity for an armed and frustrated teenager to bully? The Maoist movement in Nepal was thuggery posing as social change. For us, the Annapurna Sanctuary yet awaits. Similarly we were planning a fall 2009 trip to Valle de Bravo, just 2 ½ hours drive from Mexico City. It’s the valley where the Monarch butterflies come in winter and locals believe they are the returning spirits of family members. Wouldn’t that be great to see? But thanks to the truly horrific activities of the Mexican drug cartels, Raja and I aren’t forging into the Mexican countryside in a rental jeep right now.
Nevertheless, there are ways that one can travel into countries where the security factor isn’t the best and still establish some security links.
First: In your hotel, inform the front desk of your specific daily plans in writing and give your intended time of return. (Make sure your full name, address, primary contact info. and passport number are part of the packet.) Check back when you do return so you establish a pattern of accountability.
Second: As soon as possible upon arrival, register with the Consulate General of your home country in the office, not on the phone. That way, somebody official knows you are in the country and has seen you. Also, in the process, you get the opportunity to have a conversation about what activities and locations are advisable and what are inadvisable.
Third: When renting transport, avoid doing it on the cheap in insecure places. Reputable car transport services are accountable and schedules are registered. A random person with a car and a small business- however much we all like to mingle locally- is not traceable. Reputable transport services operate within a network of relationships and have a mutual protection infrastructure.
Fourth: In all outward bound activities, do not be casual about getting the required trekking permits and licenses. These take a couple of days but, again, you tap into infrastructure.
Countries that thrive on tourism do not want anything to happen to you because you are a primary source of income. If you register, somebody will care that you are moving through the territory safely.
Now back to the pet part of this topic. Personally I’m not all that scared of Maoists in Nepal. They’re after governmental change, not tourists per se. And I can tell them “Tis barsa agi mero suruman Peace Corps kam gardechu.” (You get the point.) Also, I’m not a part of the Mexican drug economy, so I don’t pose either a threat or an opportunity. Or that’s how I see it. BUT, on the other hand, I have no business taking optimistic and trusting Raja into dangerous terrain where I can’t protect him from jittery foolishness and crossfire.
Adventure travel is great… and may all our adventures outward bound be safe from predatory human beings and their horrible inhumanity.
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