Rhododendron – A wild Himalayan Flower found mostly in a moist Himalayan forest typically at at altitude above 5000ft. Rhododendron has many health benefits, it purifies the blood, reduces the risk of cancer, cures inflammation and enhances the functioning of your kidney and liver.
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At Eco-Traveler, we help you travel, travel not just for a break from your mundane routine, but a travel that heals you from within and enhances your health. We wish to give you a life changing experience, hence we bring to this unique trek that has been designed for a perfect extended weekend healthy getaway. Lets take to you into The Great Himalayan Forests, lets take you into a parallel life were you are in the midst of passing clouds, dancing trees, clean stream water and song of million birds and plus some healing practices by our experts on the trek.

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The Great Himalayan National Park Trekking and Exploration is an Easy Trek for beginners and a great experience for families with young kids too. Its a 2 night and 3 day trekking experience, one can extend their trip and relax in the traditional home stays of Tirthan Valley and indulge in their local cuisines. This is more of an exploration trek, rather than following a typical trek route, one gets to engage more in the flora and fauna.

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The Great Himalayan National Park is a UNESCO declared world heritage site, it is an Eco-zone and a preserved forest area. UNESCO recognised it due to the forests’s possesion of over 200 species of birds and several species of animals including the black bear and leopard, bordering the Great Himalayan National Park on the other side of the valley is the Pin Valley National Park, the home of snow leopards. We trust now you are assured of an experiences emerged in the wilderness.

We also believe in being a responsible traveler and adventurer, at each step of our travel experiences, we show you and motivate you on how to travel in harmony with the destination you are traveling to.

To know about the detailed itinerary and to book :

Great Himalayan National Park – Trekking and Exploration

At Eco-Traveler, we always welcome travelers to come, travel and contribute in their own special way to the local communities that we work with. To our luck we had Dr. Apoorva Raghavan who traveler with us to Spiti all the way from Chennai. She will always remain one of the most special travelers for Eco-Traveler. Apoorva came with a pile of medicines from Chennai to Delhi to Manali to Spiti and we were successfully able to pull of a medical camp for the villagers of Dhankar Village in Spiti. We had an overwhelming response, Appoorva checked close to 80 patients in the village.

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Here is what she had to say about her experience:

Spiti, the middle land, has always been a place that evoked wonder and longing within me. Being a volunteer for the environment and conservation, I always look to travel for a cause. It was providence that brought me to Tanya Roy of Eco-Traveler. The name speaks for itself as her company embodies everything that I am passionate about- the eco (system/eco-friendly ) and travel. Booked a seat for myself on a Spiti Valley road trip, to learn first-hand, what eco-tourism is all about. First leg of the journey felt the longest; from Chennai to Delhi and then to Manali, I couldn’t wait to soak in the beauty of the Desert Mountains. In Manali, we stayed in a quaint but utterly charming village homestay with breathtaking views of the green clad slopes. From Manali, we started early the next morning to Kibber. The rising altitude brought along with it spectacular images of mountains with crowns made of clouds, the clearest, bluest sky and vast valleys. At Kibber, the homestay was thronging with tourists, but managed to provide us with a hot bath, owing to the solar water heater. Who needs electricity when we have the sun?  From Kibber, we went onto Dhankar, the cliff village with a high altitude lake- the Dhankar Lake which is a short trek away. The homestay at Dhankar had dry toilets i.e. the waste is covered with a lawyer of cowdung and used as manure. Not even water is wasted here. We had a small, modest medical camp there as the locals don’t have easy access to medicines. It helped us in getting to know the people there, their needs, health status and the problems they face. Next, it was onto Langza, going to the highest village in the world connected by road- Komik. The Langza homestay

(with dry toilets and solar power)

was most memorable;  the boisterous, iron willed, witty granny, my poor hindi, helping her in prepping for dinner, crying as I chopped onions only to leave her cackling with laughter. Now that is what travel is all about. Our final day took us to Chandra-tal, the moon lake. We chose to trek there instead of going by road. The 4 hour trek, surrounded by towering giant mountains on all sides, capped with snow, left us feeling utterly insignificant and our troubles, more so. Nearing the lake, we could see the path strewn with bottles and trash left behind by campers. Naturally, we started picking up and embarked on a clean up around Chandra-tal, it was a privilege! The campsite we stayed in, does its part for the environment too. The trash was segregated, loaded up onto trucks and taken back to Manali for recycling.

Travel- the word has become all the rage nowadays. Social media is choc a bloc with blogs, photos and videos, claiming “To Travel is to Live” and everyone feels compelled to travel, its more peer pressure than inspiration.

Yes, travelling is good, when done right. We have a beautiful planet waiting to be explored and most of all, cherished and protected. Going on a travel-rampage, leaving a footprint of trash, just to post photos on Instagram isn’t going to help preserve whats left of nature. Travel at the grassroots level with someone who knows, understands and strives to help the local ecosystem. Get to know the people of the region, share stories, make memories, learn how people in various corners of the earth live, their local trade and livelihood. By doing so, you will learn that you are a small but important gear in the machinery of the universe. Even you, as a single human bring, can turn a few wheels; all it takes is some care towards Mother Nature.  Swanky hotels ain’t gonna give u that. For me, Eco-Traveler is the only way to travel from now on.

 

In 2015, 154 World leaders met in New York, USA to sign a document titled ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development’. The move came in the wake of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) falling short of their targeted achievements. Published in The Future We Want back in 2000, MDGs had targeted 8 key areas for development – poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, disease, environment and global partnership. The goals were meant to be realized by 2015 and although significant progress was made, our Corporatocracy failed to achieve all targets by the deadline.

Building up on shortfalls of its predecessor, the new commitments now encompass 17 aspirational “Global Goals” to be achieved by 2030. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cover a broad range of targets such as – ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests. These goals have been described as the basic requirements for ensuring a sustainable future for our coming generations.

Although globally accepted, the pathways for achieving these goals have been widely contested. United Nations has published a series of guidelines and recommendations for imbibing the ethics of sustainability in all major sectors, of which tourism is one of the vital players. Living in a dynamic country such as India, if there are any doubts at the ability of your travel to bring about change, the following statistic might put it in perspective –

 According to the Ministry of Tourism, travel and tourism sector is estimated to generate 78 jobs per million rupees of investment. This might not seem a lot at first but when compared with other emerging sectors such as manufacturing and retail, which create about 45 jobs per million rupees of investment, the figure deems tourism as one of the largest growing sectors in the service industry.

With significant improvements in infrastructure and connectivity, more Indians are traveling now than ever before. As one of the largest growing service sector industry, tourism bears a big responsibility on its shoulders for the future. After all, you wouldn’t want to visit the forests if there are no trees, drink from the mountain streams if they are contaminated and you certainly wouldn’t want to travel to a destination ridden with disease and poverty. The fate of tourism and conservation is closely linked. If one fails to provide needs of the other, the whole ecosystem faces destruction.

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Figure 1 The “Three-idiot Lake” (Pangong-Tso) of Ladakh faces its biggest threat  from the massive influx of plastic bottles and wrappers brought along by hundreds of tourists visiting the lake every year

The dangers of unscrupulous and unmanaged tourism were clearly felt back during the flash floods of 2013 in Uttarakhand. Due to weak infrastructure and planning, hundreds were left stranded for days in the harsh Himalayan region. The incident foretells what eventually will happen on a larger scale if humans keep taking nature lightly. It is also not an isolated incident. Several other events from the history of the country and the world echo the same belief.

Travelling is undoubtedly an intimate experience which takes us away from the clatter of our routine life. It bears importance in all of our lives. It helps our body and soul to let ourselves out and welcome the world in. We want to leave all our tensions back at office desks and dinner tables; and want to have the time of our lives. But, often blinded by our indulgences, we don’t pay attention at the implications of our actions on the places we travel and people we meet. Thus we often miss the opportunity to contribute to the larger movement of change that our world is going through right now. Don’t worry, it’s not just you but a larger portion of travel community that is guilty of making these infractions. That is why it got necessary for our world leaders to acknowledge the importance of sustainability in travel and tourism on a global platform.

 

 

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Figure 2 Ill-managed dhabas now encroach the once pristine Kheerganga landscape

 

The UN General Assembly last year declared 2017 as the ‘International year of sustainable tourism for development’, giving the sector its due recognition as the change maker it really is.

The World powers agreed in the assembly to propagate the ethics of sustainable tourism focused on 5 key areas:

  • Inclusive and Sustainable economic growth
  • Social inclusiveness, employment and Poverty reduction
  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection and Climate change
  • Cultural values, diversity and heritage
  • Mutual understanding, peace and security

As a social enterprise, Eco-traveler resonates these duties and beliefs put forth by the international community for our species’ future. It is dedicated to develop sustainable tourism in the fragile ecosystems of Indian subcontinent. Eco-traveler works with local communities to protect their homes and livelihoods. A key component of Eco-traveler’s approach are the flagship Eco-homestays. These homestays provide an additional income opportunity for several rural households largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture. With infrequent showers and changing monsoon patterns, these families are under threat from climate change. The travelers staying with these families experience the trivialities of a rural life and learn to respect the local traditions and beliefs. As opposed to lavish hotels and resorts built on massive area, these homestays are developed to be self-sustained and have negligible footprint on the local ecosystem. Energy efficiency of each household is increased through introduction of clean technologies such as fuel-efficient biomass cook-stoves, biogas and solar pv rooftop systems. Along with reduction, recycling and composting of solid waste from these households, Eco-traveler envisages to develop an incentivized waste management system focused on a closed supply-chain of solid waste through which waste could be eliminated from the system.

The key to understand the philosophy behind Eco-traveler is the realization of the greater challenge that faces whole of humanity today. One may look at it from a global scale as our current SDGs or from a ground perspective through a grass-root organization’s actions. The aim in sight remains the same. The ethics remain the same. And it is of utmost importance to understand that this is not one organization’s or country’s goals. It is a global challenge and that demands concerted efforts from each and every one of us.

 

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Figure 3 An appeal by Jibhi Valley Tourism Association, Tirthan

With clear recognition of the power tourism has in international development, we need to ask ourselves if our earth afford the perils of mass tourism which has become dangerously prevalent in our society. After all, society is the outcome of its people. And we the people are the agents of change. So pledge your support and participate in redefining how we travel. Become a responsible traveler. Opt for home stays and use locally produced products. Minimize your waste and give back to the community. Every bit helps.

Remember – Travel for conservation, conservation for travel.

– By Priyanshu Thapliyal

“A Traveler without observation is like a bird without wings”

 

Picture of a traditional homestay in Spiti Valley, Himachal

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We are entering an era where we have started to realize (hopefully) the importance of conservation of our natural resources, micro- ecosystems and over all our planet. The challenge is we all want to begin however all of us are lost on where to begin with. The reason is we have completely got lost is because we are all trapped in our comfort zones and set processes of our everyday lives. Right from the packet of milk that we purchase, to shampoos to conditioners to our fancy diesel vehicles, we are not conditioned to think that there could be something possibly wrong with all this.

It is the same when it comes to travel. When we travel, we look for the cheapest options, even if we have to travel in large groups. Not just that, we want to travel to a destinations and yet seek comforts of home (Air-conditioner, television, restaurant like food and others). The essence of traveling out of home to a new place is to feel the place in its raw and untouched form, because when we do so we get the experience of how a certain set of people live in a certain geography, under various conditions. This not us opens our mind but also makes us more resilient to change. Below are some fundamental difference between Eco-Tourism and Mass Tourism for a better and simplified understanding:

 

Markets Mass Tourism Ecotourism
Volume and Mode High – Package Tours Low – Individual experience focused
Season sensitivity High – Volumes visible only during peak seasons Low – Less populated and nature seeking
Origin Specific popular markets and destinations Less popular offbeat destinations
Attractions Highly commercialized Moderately commercialized
Emphasis Generic and commercially authentic Preserved and locally Authentic
Accommodation Resort, High end hotels Local Homestays
Architecture International Standards and designs Historical and Local designs
Ownership Large Corporations or NON Local HNI’s (High net worth individuals) Locals, small business, association drives
Linkages Extensive Minimal
Multiplier effect Large scale profit making with depleting the destination Local increment in livelihood
Time Frame Short term profit making Long term fair trade and conservation
Experience Far from the native geography and culture In the lap of authenticity

 

This is a short synopsis of the primary difference between Eco-Tourism and Mass Tourism. Next time you pick your package think about these aspects for an experience for none other than for yourself.

 

Nestled between the snow-capped mountains of Himachal Pradesh, Kheer Ganga offers travellers a picturesque view of the Himalayan stronghold and hosts hot water springs that can ease away any qualm or pain. The once pristine forests might have been an isolated sanctuary for the diverse Himalayan wildlife at one point of time, but it has since evolved into a go-to holiday destination brimming with our urban bourgeoisie. Long gone are the days when it used to be a peaceful trek through the pristine forest; now the trek bustles with delusional hippies and Café music.

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During my recent visit there, I was on a mission. I, along with a handful of nature lovers, environmentalists and concerned citizens had volunteered for a Cleanliness drive of the hippie trail organized by Eco-traveller. The event aimed to raise awareness about the looming threats the valley faces due to the unceasing inflow of trash each year. An unabridged trail of plastic waste now lines the walking path; ignored by most like a mere overgrown verge. The problem was that it wasn’t a problem at all.

While rummaging through the seemingly endless sea of plastic, we deliberated on effective solutions to dispose of the collected waste. We had already assumed that trying to reduce the generated trash was a banal attempt and our solutions should rather focus on its efficient management.

We willingly plunged ourselves into the filth, hand knitted jute garbage bags around our waists, and picked up as much trash as one could with unimpeded enthusiasm. The initiative was a great success and yet again proved the power of people to bring about change.

Volunteers scoping the valley for more trash as they struggle to hold on to the overflowing garbage bags
Volunteers scoping the valley for more trash as they struggle to hold on to the overflowing garbage bags

Well intentioned, no doubt, but does this initiative provides the end solution to the problem of the continuously increasing waste in Kheerganga, or anywhere else for that matter?

To a lot of people’s displeasure, the answer would be no. It might be a mitigating intervention but waste management alone cannot provide us the luxury to turn a blind eye to our much more significant problem of waste generation.

To tackle this problem of waste, one first needs to understand it. Only when we peel through the façade of convention, the root cause behind waste generation becomes clearer. And this cause; which is often missing from our common perception of waste; is much needed to be debated on. We do not have to look for solutions from our authorities or experts. Their solutions mostly buy us some more time before we eventually start feeling the inevitable repercussions of our continued ignorance. The policies treat us as a hopeless generation of consumers and undermine your ability to change. Or is it that they don’t want you to change?

But I haven’t lost faith in you yet. That’s why I am talking to you now. In hope you will understand and acknowledge the solutions that have always been within you.

So let’s talk about waste and how can we minimise it.

As a species, we can well agree to the fact that ‘waste’ is everywhere. It is the omnipresent god of modern century. Reincarnating itself into the plethora of everyday products as soon as we flush it down our rivers. This is the waste that is a waste since its inception. This is the waste that we consume and then wait to be taken away from our sights. You need to identify this waste first.

Multitudes of Waste wait patiently in Cafés of Kheerganga for tired unsuspecting travellers
Multitudes of Waste wait patiently in Cafés of Kheerganga for tired unsuspecting travellers

The countless number of plastic bottles and wrappers collected from the Kheerganga trail give testimony of the waste we are persuaded to buy. You have been conditioned to forget the costs that we actually incur to create these marketable waste.

Why would the palm oil companies willingly tell you about the thousands of acres of rainforests they have burned down in South Asia? As things stand, the burden of justifying this massive destruction sadly lies on you.

Corporations may simply work on concerns over profit and loss. But you are not an organization. You are no machine. We are people. And you can afford to think twice before making that purchase.

Try it. It’s free! ~ Sad consumer joke~

In the witch hunt for resources to satiate our never ending desires; we are mining away our landscapes, cutting down our forests, hunting down our wildlife, polluting our rivers and changing our climate.

It won’t stop until you do.

It is time to address the basic issues with your lifestyle and wants.

Our landfills will eventually overflow, water bodies would choke and there would be nothing left to dig out from the Earth. This is the future our current model of consumption is leading us to. The perceived growth of our civilization runs on our expertise of resource consumption. It’s something that has been engrained in your mind since childhood. You are led to believe that you need that burger, that bag, that I phone.

The constant fear of crippling our invisible growth makes us comply and play our part in the market economy. Allowing corporations to pillage our Earth and create waste.   

Yes, I agree it’s not easy to give up all the pleasures that our economic rise may provide you in the long run. But in the end, our decisions as a species should also consider the limits of our Planet.

Acceptance is the first and hardest part. The road from there is easier and fulfilling. From one manufactured consumer to other.   

We should also not forget that while dealing with our own direct waste, our concerns for its effective management should immediately follow our retrospection.

Do remember – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle; for a hopeful future.

A thought etched out somewhere in Kheerganga
A thought etched out somewhere in Kheerganga

Eco-traveller is a sustainable adventure travel company working towards conservation & sustainability through experiential travel. ECO- Environment, Communities & Outdoors.

Come join in to bring the change. Visit their Facebook page to know more, and support –  https://www.facebook.com/ecotraveler.in1404/?fref=ts

 

DISCLAIMER – The article doesn’t aims to provide one-stop solutions but simply puts forth an alternate way of perceiving the problem. The idea is to provoke thoughts and debates among readers rather than preaching. The readers are also advised to do their own research and then take decisions

Priyanshu Thapliyal

 

 

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Traveling is a single word to which one’s thoughts would be infinite and never enough to sum up. We do what we love and traveling is one of them, so why not display true love by taking some very basics steps to  preserve the destination we travel to and capture it forever in our hearts. We often complain going to various places about cleanliness but what are we doing about it? These steps might seem tough and impractical to many, one can begin with small steps. Here is how you can begin being an EcoTraveler.

1. Carry your own water bottle:

Wherever you go, if you are taking a roadtrip, backpacking or traveling with family or you are in your favorite outdoors, carrying your own water bottle helps you on hygiene, instead of buying pet plastic water bottles and disposing them there, fill water from restaurants, eateries or the best is to fill your drinking water from a clean natural resource, even if you have to but plastic water bottles, ensure you dispose them in the right bins.

2. Eat Fresh or carry your own food:

While you flag of carry your own lunch box with dry food items, as you travel, consumer freshly cooked food instead of buying packet-ed processed food like chips, snackers which would produce more plastic waste. Enjoying local cuisines is a better idea always !

3. Travel local:

The idea of driving in your own vehicle is fun and comforting, however you are unknowingly a reason to the traffic while complaining about it, by traveling through locally operated transport and locally run taxis you are supporting the local economy and this is also an alternatives for the comfort loving ones.

4. Keep the music low:

We all have our favorite play list to play while we travel, listening to low music and close spaces is a good idea. If you are an outdoor person plug in your head phones, playing loud music outdoors disturbs the atmosphere and animals as that could be their habitat. When we travel into wilderness, it is our responsibility to ensure we do not disturb the habitat of animals.

5. Dispose zero Non- Biodegradable waste:

Whatever we dispose that can easily decompose is not as harmful, plastic, cans etc should be avoided to be disposed. create a small bin in your bag or car and ensure proper waste disposal.

6. Recycle Plastic:

Plastic is a blessing if recycled, curse if disposed. Existing plastic can be used to several practical usage, I always carry my closed in a plastic bag before I put them in my rucksack, I also keep extra plastic to wrap dirty or wet clothes or carry things not be disposed in open outdoors.

There are many more ways, I hope this read gives you a food for thought to come up with many such solutions and become an ECO- Traveler!