Photo: CYNTHIA CHOO
Trekking guide Ganesh Adhikari was on an eight-day trek in the Annapurna region when the second earthquake struck on 12 May. Adhikari saw only 35 other trekkers on the route that week. That number would have been in the hundreds in any other spring season.
Even though a majority of the trekking trails weren’t affected by the quakes, negative coverage in media, fear of the occurrence of another bigger shake, have kept trekkers at bay.
Nava Raj Pandey of the Thamel-based Motherland Nepal Trekking and Expeditions says his company, along with other trekking agencies, is now working to spread information about safe trekking routes to potential visitors.
“There are a lot of places that didn’t suffer any damage in the quake, and we want tourists to know this. It’s not only for business, but it’s the truth,” says Pandey.
Trekking agents are ready to book trips to the Annapurna region and Everest Base Camp where lodges are open and guides can be easily hired. Because the entire circuit has very little traffic, entrepreneurs say it is a perfect time for those who prefer trekking in isolation.
Map of safe trekking areas
Map by Ayesha Shakya
The area is also not as susceptible to mudslides as other treks that must be closed down during the monsoon. Mustang, which lies in the rain shadow of the Himalaya, is another destination tourism entrepreneurs are promoting for monsoon visitors.
However, trekking agents say unlike tourism entrepreneurs in Pokhara which last month announced huge discounts on hotels and tour packages, slashing off rates is not a viable option to attract tourists.
“The cost of organising treks has gone up and as it is we keep very minimal margin,” says Prem Shrestha of Eco Trek. Transporting food and other goods from the city to trekking areas have gone up due to damaged roads.
This slump in business has been difficult for many guides and porters who depend on the seasonal job for their yearly income. Many of them are beginning to look elsewhere for work, and some are being hired for relief delivery by the World Food Programme.
Mingma Sherpa from Dolakha has been working as a guide for 13 years. He went to work in South Korea and was earning more there but returned because he wanted to be with his family.
Sherpa says he has no option but to once again go abroad. He hasn’t been hired for any treks this season. Sherpa taught himself a few languages for his job as a guide, and is now learning Japanese not because he expects any prospective Japanese tourists, but because he is trying to go to Japan if he finds a job there.
"I will have to pay brokers at least $12,000 to obtain a work visa," he says dejected. Even if he gets to go it will be a long time before Sherpa can send money home.
Mustang in March, Cynthia Choo and Kenji Kwok
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