Nepal Dolpo trek
Description of Nepal Dolpo trek
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We cater for both vegetarians and vegans.
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We have a focus during the expeditions to see and, where appropriate, seek out animal habitats but want to ensure that this is done in a way that minimises disturbance. Our partners in village communities take us to the habitat of snow leopards but primarily to seek signs (tracks and spoor). In the unlikely event we do see a snow leopard we would prioritise minimum disturbance. Our Dolpo partners are devout Bon-Buddhists and despite frequent predation on their goat and sheep flocks by snow leopards, they believe fundamentally in respect for these animals and (we are assured) they are not hunted by locals. We are also assured that no hunting is undertaken of deer or Bharal by locals. The area is within Nepal’s largest National Park – Shey Phoksundo.
We have a policy of carrying out everything we bring in and minimising waste where possible. Any plastic or glass waste as a result of purchases by clients/us is also carried out (we have extra capacity on our pack animals so can easily accommodate this). We encourage clients to avoid purchasing glass bottled drinks (which are banned in some parts of the Himalayas but not in Dolpo). We use state of the art water purifiers and avoid use of any bottled water.
Dolpo is an area of multiple springs, streams and rivers. We use these natural sources (there is no other source). We do not tend to use large amounts of water (we have solar shower bags which make water use self limiting for showering).
There is no mains electricity in Dolpo. All electricity is either solar or in one location micro hydro. We carry in portable solar charging panels and equipment. We carry in gas bottles for cooking and avoid cooking on wood fires since we do not want to compete for scarce wood resources that we cannot ensure come from renewable (replanted) sources. Our village hosts do use wood and dung fires – using improved stoves with flues.
We have partnered with a small, locally owned boutique hotel in Kathmandu (Thamel heritage Villa) that is part of a heritage group of individual businesspeople who work to conserve old buildings in Kathmandu. We also take people to restaurants run by those with similar views to heritage (Swotha Traditional Homes and 1812 restaurant – in a conserved building built in 1812).
We have a longer-term ambition and are currently working to pioneer the use of tented accommodation (gurs) inspired by the tents of Nomadic people of Tibet and NW Nepal.
Flights to and from Dolpo are the only feasible method of transport but all transport in Dolpo is by food and mule (baggage). We also organise for mules to be brought down from mountain communities (which is significantly more costly) to solve the problem of ‘outside’ animals being brought up to fragile mountain pastures (this was a criticism by mountain communities of current trekking in the area).
Our partner in Nepal operates on similar principles. Our hotel partners in Kathmandu subscribe to heritage objectives and our partner local airline is a supporter of waste control initiatives in mountain areas (removal of waste). We are also partnered with 3 mountain communities who are our hosts in Dolpo.
PeopleThe Founding principles of the travel company is on tourism that benefits mountain communities – so this is something that we are working very actively on. It should also be noted that these expeditions are being led by an international (gavin Anderson) and a Nepali (Jigmen Lama) who are experts in Rural development – each has over 20 years experience – rather than merely trekking/tour leaders.
Friends and neighbors
Our whole expeditions are designed around small locally owned accommodation and restaurants in Kathmandu. Our work in mountain communities is to use local guides – who speak Dolpo-Tibetan - and members from the local communities to explain their culture and guide and interpret for us locally. This is a significant difference to other trekking undertaken throughout Nepal and particularly in the NW of Nepal.
Campaigning for Change
We respond positively (by establishing alternatives) to local concerns – specifically:
• the fact that existing trekking does not benefit the mountain communities which are a key part of the tourism attraction of the area.
• the damage of trekking pack animals on fragile community pastures
• the lack of understanding and interaction of trekkers with local culture – often exacerbated by guides from other areas who do not speak the local language (many people of mountain Dolpo – the Dolpo-pa- do not speak Nepali well or at all).
• The rubbish and waste created by trekking groups.
Two other areas of specific interest for the company moving forward are:
1) Indigenous land rights: A concern locally is larger investors trying to buy land in the area. The company has a policy never to support local land rights and is surently working on future plans to develop tourism accommodation in joint venture with local communities that use gurs (tented camps inspired by tents used traditionally by Tibetan nomads in the area).
2) Cultural Heritage preservation and development: we are currently discussing with a local village head about assisting him to realise an ambition to establish a small folk museum/heritage center in the upper village of Dolpo. His aim is to create a center that not only has interest for tourists but will provide a focal point for young people to understand their culture and heritage.
Volunteering and Charity
Our work with Amchis (Tibetan Herbalists) undertaking guide experience tours is done in a way that we donate money (from us and our groups) to ad to a fund to purchase herbal medicines not available from the local environment. If the company becomes profitable in the future, we have a policy within our business plan to contribute at least 15% of profits to charitable and conservation efforts in the area (that is likely to be in the future though).
A Fair Deal
We have no full-time employees in the Dolpo area since at present we are only there 2 to 4 times a year. We employ part time staff for each tour. Our tours are specifically designed to work with local guides and cultural interpreters (local Amchi herbalists, local Lamas, village leaders, female leaders). We actively maximise employment and participation from people in mountain communities (who are usually excluded from existing trekking in the area) in the trek – porters, mule drivers, cook assistants. We have a policy for porterage which adheres to government guidelines on carry weight (no more than 30 kg) whereas trekking porters in the area are often asked to carry up to 50kg in conventional treks! We also have a longer term ambition to train female guides (for our gur circuit development) and younger guides from the area.
Local Crafts and Culture
The expeditions are specifically cultural in nature and a respect and understanding of the culture runs through our whole ethos.
Traveling with Respect
We partner with mountain communities and are fostering and building close relationships with these communities. A close relationship with communities is completely central to our success.
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