News

Children’s Race in Manang

We always stop in Manang Village (elevation 3,519m/11,545ft ) for a day so that we can acclimatize before heading to higher elevations. Following our experiences working with our partner charity Wide Open Vistas which also organizes runs – we partnered up with school, community, and park officials to help organize this race. All participants received a pen for taking part and the winners were able to choose a water bottle to take home as well. Good times were had by all. (actually our fast pack participants had a hard time keeping up with the better-acclimated children…there were some DNFs!) We will do it again next year! Special thanks to Sudeep and Ms. Tshering from Hotel Mountain Lake for organizing this well in advance and making it happen once we were in Manang. Thanks also to fast pack participants and children’s race volunteers: Pablo Cabrera, Stephanie Gundel, Lukas Rådgiver, Dan Letzer, Sonam Shah. We will do this again next year. Hope you are there and hope you can keep up with the children!

Trip Report 2016 fast pack.

Our third annual fast pack around the Annapurna Circuit was a success thanks to great weather, great trails, and great people. We covered ~228k of the circuit in just over 10 days – getting off the beaten jeep track and following rarely used trails with a total elevation gain of 11,846m. We also stopped to visit monasteries, ate many bowls of noodle soup, tried to befriend goats, ran through holy water fountains, and donated blood to more than one leach. Our itinerary had two ‘rest days’ to help us acclimatize before we crossed our highest point – the 5,416m/17,769ft Thorung Pass. Another high point was the Children’s Race that we helped organize with Wide Open Vistas and the local school in Manang. We traveled quick, light, and self-supported on this adventure. Big thanks to prior participants who have helped shape this event over the years and our 2016 alumni for their participation and support, especially Lukas Rådgiver, Stephanie Gundel, Daniel Letzler, Pablo Cabrera, Sonam Shah, Sudeep Kandel, Sherpa Ngawang Dorjee, Richard Ball, and Seth Wolpin. . Also big thanks to Tshering from Hotel Mountain Lake & Restaurant Tales Beyond the Mountains and people of Manang for supporting and helping with the childrens race

The event is getting better every year, with new ideas evolving, discovering alternative trails, more organised operations and great participants who simply love outdoors! We are looking forward to next year! 

-Sudeep and Seth

Lessons Learned

We like to write down the ups and downs each year so that we can keep on improving!

  • Better briefing the night before we leave Kathmandu.
  • Better heads up to people that the first 2 hours on the trail are not pleasant due to construction. Leaving the city at 10am actually works well as it misses the traffic congestion and still gets us to the trailhead around 3pm.
  • Have people manage their own water treatment, but consider still carrying the group gravity water filter.
  • Remind people that they may be asked to carry up to half a kilo of group gear (med kit etc).
  • Acclimatization worked great, staying in Yak Karka for a second night (instead of going to Thorung Phedi) would be good if anyone has AMS symptoms.
  • Need better accommodation in Marpha. The lodge we used in 2014 was the best.
  • Better organization of cultural events/learnings every couple evenings (learn to cook dahl baht, sit-down with local shamen, visit with a community health worker, etc)

 

Bonus points for cool shades

Sometimes you need to dig deep (and wear cool shades). This photo is of Lukas Rådgiver running through the elements at the Zürich marathon this spring – 0 degrees. snow, rain, hail and heavy winds. A veteran of many endurance challenges, we are happy to have Lukas and his shades in the Himalaya this fall for the Annapurna Circuit Fast pack – a small group, cultural run.

Luke

A Shift in Tourism Development Paradigm

Last month, I had an opportunity to attend a ‘Workshop on Ecologically and Socially Sustainable Tourism’ at Sambhaavnaa Institute of Public Policy and Politics in Himanchal Pradesh, India.

It was a unique experience to attend this workshop even before the program started as I travelled across Nepal to India by bus, train, jeep and tempo to reach the venue. My love for travelling and interest in tourism sector brought me to Himanchal Pradesh and at Sambhaavnaa Institute.

Participants from the workshop

Participants from the workshop

The institute lies on the foothills of Dhauladhar Range in Kandra District, one of many ranges that create a great himalayan barrier. The terrain of Himanchal Pradesh is similar to hilly regions of Nepal so I felt comfort of home in the mountains.

One of the striking observation for a person coming from a country which has no government run public transportation I was impressed by the public transport infrastructure in India particularly train network and state bus service. Most of the places were connected by either train or bus and the service ran 24 hours a day.

The workshop was curated by Sambhaavnaa Institute and Equitable Tourism Options (EQUATIONS) a research, campaign and advocacy organisation. 35 participants from different regions discussed on contemporary issues relating to sustainable tourism and looked at tourism policy of various states in India, Nepal, Laos and Canada.

The workshop lasted for three days where participants shared their experience from tourism practices to policy formulation. Being an undergraduate student I met my counterparts from leading Indian institutions in the field of Social Sciences; Tata School of Social Sciences (TISS) and Azim Premji University. We had a plenty of time to network and learn about issues inside and outside the college.

Hike to Langha temple near Kandbari village in Himachal

Hike to Langha temple near Kandbari village in Himachal

Personally the learning curve from the workshop was the realisation of the importance of justice, equality and sustainability in the equation while formulating tourism policies and implementing ecological and sustainable practices. However, the lapses in tourism policies were clear. Current national policies and tourism policies of various states and union territories in India prioritise infrastructure driven tourism, and rarely address issues of impacts, regulation and management. The scenario is not very different with environment and forest laws prevalent in India today. Environment regulation in tourism is weak and even what exists is flouted with impunity, by both policy makers themselves and the tourism industry.1

Rajendra P Gurung a participant at the workshop, who co runs an organisation Eco-Tourism & Conservation Society of Sikkim, helped in formulating the Sikkim Tourism Policy in 2015 did accept the fact that the reality is different from what is written on the paper. He admits that the power tensions between the Tourism Ministry and its departments have led to poor implementation of policies. Regulation such as ‘Sikkim Registration of Homestay Establishment’ (Sikkim Registration of Homestay Establishment) which failed to regulate the 700 newly establishment home stays.

Also, the topic of discussion was how political and natural calamities affect the tourism sector. The devastating April 25 earthquake and subsequent petroleum shortage that has prompted foreign tourists to cancel their trips to Nepal has severely affected the tourism industry of India’s north-eastern state of Sikkim. Of the total adventure enthusiasts coming to Sikkim, 70 percent travel via Nepal.2

Participants shared the opportunities and challenges in tourism sector from their experiences from areas such as Sundarbans in India, Annapurna region in Nepal to Mekong River. The main challenges faced by most of these regions is the sustainability of existing mainstream tourism models and the need for inclusive development taking the indigenous community to maintain an equity and ecological balance.

Also, the next achievement from the trip was to initiate educational and cultural partnership between two institutions. As a Research and Development Officer at The Student Society, National College I led the signing of Memorandum of Association between Sambhaavnaa Institute and National College to initiate educational partnerships like student exchange service in the near future.

My observation of people and community while running (which I love to do!) in villages taught me the cultural and economic similarities between Nepal and India. For next ten days I travelled through Himanchal Pradesh exploring people and places. While doing so I spent nights in buses, trains, in a tent, in Dharmashala, at a homestay and hotels.

 

1 Equations, E, 2008. Who Really Benefits from Tourism: Working Paper Series 2008-09. 1st ed. Bangalore : Equations.

2 The Kathmandu Post. 2015. Disturbances in Nepal ‘hit’ Sikkim tourism. [ONLINE] Available at: http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/printedition/news/2015-10-18/disturbances-in-nepal-hit-sikkim-tourism.html. [Accessed 23 April 2016].

(Sudeep Kandel is a Trans-Nepal Runner, Co-race director at Annapurna Circuit Trail Race and Co-founder of Kathmandu Running Club. Currently he is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Development Finance from Kathmandu University.)

Meet Emily

Meet Emily, our most recent sign-up for the 2016 Annapurna Circuit Fastpack. A self-described ‘trail runner and mountain biking obsessive who spends every weekend running trail in the mountains of the United Arab Emirates.’ Emily has competed in long distance desert races in Jordan and Oman and is looking forward to running big trails in the Himalaya. The big question: Can we keep up?

Emily

Emily