Trail Safe Trip Preparation
To demonstrate this entire process, let me give you an example from a trip on which Denise and I embarked last year. For Men's Fitness magazine, Denise and I went to Mexico to climb Pico de Orizaba, an 18,701-foot volcano situated about four hours from Mexico City. We began our planning exactly as I described earlier, at the local bookstore. We found one climbing guidebook on the volcano itself and several guides we'd used before on Mexico City and central Mexico. We gathered up the guidebooks and did a rough cut of the trip itself. Since we didn't want to put together the logistics of the climb ourselves, we decided to make arrangements with a climbing tour group and "tag onto" one of the their guided climbs. After a quick surf on the Internet, we had a list of all the guide services running trips on the volcanoes. Our first choice was Mountain Travel Sobek (MTS), whom we'd both worked with before. With a few phone calls and some judicious whining, we managed to attach ourselves to a two-week trip that culminated with the climb of Orizaba. At our request, MTS forwarded to us tons of information on the climb and the area of Mexico in which we planned to travel. We knew that we would have several acclimatization days in Mexico City before we actually joined the MTS group. We figured that once we were attached to the group, we could focus on the climb itself, which seemed fairly straightforward. In the meantime, we focused on outlining the dangers in Mexico City. Our first Internet searches threw up a major red flag. A Wall Street Journal article outlined increasing crime problems facing Americans in the Mexico City area. According to the U.S. State Department, as many as 50 percent of the ubiquitous green-and-white Volkswagen taxis that turn the largest city in the world into a game of pedestrian polo are driven by bandits, looking for smiling, happy tourists to rob.
Several days of research, a return to the bookstore for yet another guidebook and a transit map of Mexico City, and a bunch of hours on the Internet yielded such tidbits as how to safely pick a taxi, which areas of town to avoid at which times, train and bus schedules (including, oddly enough, which buses featured American movies), and many other safety-related items. This information in hand, we headed off to Mexico, and the trip went off without a hitch. We knew where we were staying. We knew where the bus station was in relation to where we were staying. We know how to hail a legitimate taxi. We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do each day and how we might go about doing it. Because we had the center of the city nailed down, we were able to slip away for side trips, explore different areas and, in general, play the tourists. We had a great time, climbed a mountain, ate some delicious mole sauce, and cruised home, all within the realm of safety.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication