Nepal has attracted visitors to the thousands since it opened its doors to tourism in the 1950s. Adventurers flock this mountainous nation from every region of the planet to experience hiking in the Himalayas using ancient caravan roads.
No doubt that tourism has brought economic transformation to Nepal but with regrettable environmental effects. A classic example is the living standards in villages near the main trekking roads. Over the years, life here has immensely improved because of tourism.
Before, these homes offered visitors a taste of what it means to live in a native Nepalese village. Tourists were contented with what simple luxuries locals can provide. Nowadays, these quaint homes offer more for tourists looking for creature comforts.
From homes offering bed and breakfasts, you can enjoy Wi-Fi, cold beer and even pizza! Locals have also made this a competition amongst themselves as to who gets the most customers by offering outrageous amenities. All these have threatened the very reason why mountaineers and adventurers come to Nepal in the first place.
Trekking this ancient route should be done with due care. Planning is essential to reduce your footprint and to ensure that you’re safe as you enjoy your adventure.
Different Types of Trekking
Before you step foot on the hills, decide on the kind of trek. Ask yourself a few questions: are you looking for someone to lead the way and to carry your gear or do you intend to walk on your own? Is the activity you want to do will help boost the local economy or will only end up affecting the environment?
Aside from these critical questions, consider your budget, the route you wish to use, your trip’s overall comfort level and your environmental footprint.
If you chose independent trekking, you have two options: the Annapurna Circuit or the Apple Pie and trekking to the Everest Base Camp or the Gokyo Lakes. These two trekking paths are tourist-friendly with easy to follow roads, hiking facilities, and teahouses ready to serve customers with warm food.
You can choose where you want to stay from local facilities and decide who gets to help you out. When you trek on your own, you’ll be able to check out lovely quaint villages that are usually overlooked by mostly organized trips. Doing so reduces local environmental impacts and helps spread the wealth. Staying in small local communities will also help you acclimate for the climb according to your own pace.
Organized Group Camping
Independent trekking lets you visit small villages whereas organized treks take you inside restricted areas which would be impossible to do on your own. Places like Inner Dolpo located West of Nepal and Humla are known as the most scenic places in the country and are accessible only by joining group trekking activities.
Before you join group treks, find out the sustainability certificates of the agency that is organizing the activity. Agencies that offer better services usually post using the web. These agencies may partner with different communities and proceeds of their actions may be contributed to projects that will benefit these communities.
Trekking with a Local Guide or Porter
There are many advantages of using a local guide or a porter for your trip. Guides are very familiar with the area, will be able to translate for you and will even help you arrange your accommodation but don’t expect these guys to carry your bags.
On the other hand, a porter will carry your bags but may not be able to speak your language and may not be familiar with the area. Most porters are farmers from regions like the lowlands in the hope of earning for their families.
But whether you are accompanied by a porter or a guide, you are accountable for their welfare. You must also make sure they wear proper clothing, are in good health and well adjusted for the climb. You are also responsible for their medical insurance.
Consider a guide if you plan to move along the border areas of Upper Mustang and Nar Phu. In these areas, small lodges are present to accommodate a small number of people. Even the number of visitors in these areas are controlled to lessen environmental impact. Only trekking agencies are given permits to enter restricted areas.
Sustainable Hiking Tips from ACAP
The Annapurna Conservation Area Project protects trekking areas. The group recommends these sustainable hiking tips that combine responsible environmental activities and awareness of tourism’s cultural effects. Most trekking agencies follow these tips:
- The ACAP has water filling stations found at the Annapurna Circuit that provides UV-treated drinking water for a minimal fee. Don’t bring plastic bottled drinking water.
- Water for showers should be heated using solar power and not by burning wood.
- Eat the same meals as everyone else to reduce fuel consumption. Use pressure cookers for efficient cooking.
- Only pack what you need.
- Take your trash home. Broken electronics and batteries should not be carelessly thrown anywhere.
- Always use a toilet where it is available.