Metro Atlanta man describes surviving four nights alone, lost on Guatemalan volcano

ANTIGUA, Guatemala — The hiker who got lost on a Guatemalan volcano last month is back home in Lilburn.

Zain Waliany, 26, spoke to media after reuniting with his parents and sister.

“That was so relieving,” said Waliany. “I was so happy to see them.”

Waliany said he lost his way May 21st while hiking Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala.

He said he was having trouble acclimating to the altitude and told his friend to go on up without him. He said he would catch up later.

“Ego got a little ahead of me at that point,” said Waliany.

Walking up the slick ashy summit, Waliany said he sprained his ankle. It took hours to limp to the top. He said by the time he arrived, his friend had gone down with the rest of the tourist group.

He waited nine hours for Waliany, but he never came down.

That is when the friend called family, and Waliany’s sister, Emen, began contacting search and rescue crews, the embassy and posting flyers online.

“I just don’t want to think about what could have happened,” said Emen Waliany. “Because that breaks my heart. He is my older brother. He is my only sibling. He means the world to me.”

Her brother said he walked 14 hours a day.

“I was making paper trails and everything for someone to find me,” said Waliany.

He said one night he slept in a tree, the other nights he found shelter in caves.

He said he drank rainwater and survived a 400-foot fall from a cliff.

“I started crying. Especially, after my second fall, but when I tasted my own tears, I thought, I cannot cry right now. I have to suck it up,” said Waliany. “I just could not focus on the negative of how I could die. I was so much more concerned on what I could do to live.”

Along the way, he said man’s best friend showed up on the volcano.

“That was an angel in disguise, said Waliany.

He and the dog began seeing people going to work as they approach the base. Then, they saw police.

“They realized who I was immediately,” said Waliany.

They took him to the station, fed him and medics checked his health. Waliany was able to call home.

“That that kind of broke me a little bit, I am not going to lie. I could hear in my dad’s voice that he had been crying, and my mom’s,” said Waliany.

He made it home by the following Sunday. He said he will not be hiking or traveling any time soon.

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