Responsible Travel in Himalayas

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Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby dheerajsharma14 » Fri Aug 23, 2013 5:08 pm

I am starting this thread for everyone to participate and share their tips/views/thoughts/suggestions/inputs on how we can make traveling to Himalayas better, effective and responsibly.

Well, apart from supporting or participating in the DoW - Causes for moving ahead with Responsible Travel in Himalayas, we can collate together some practical and helpful tips under this thread which can be followed in order to add or support more values to the meaning of Responsible Travel in Himalayas and help us protect them to some extent.

I will kick-start with initial three most important ones and we can keep posting others in the subsequent posts. Looking forward to all your tips/views/thoughts/suggestions/inputs :)

1. DO NOT Litter around in Himalayas
The first and the foremost thing: Please DO NOT litter around in the mountains. Love them and protect them as you do your home. Each and every individual in your group MUST ensure that they bring their own trash back home especialy the plastics wrappers or put them into proper dedicated dustbin in Hotel or Airport or available nearyby.

Best thing is to carry couple of bags or bins with you in your Car or vehicle where you can put in all the trash of wafers, toffees, chocolates etc. This will help you keep all the trash in a single place and once some garbage bin is available nearby, you can throw it there or empty the bin.

2. Carry a Single Refillable Water Bottle Or Sipper
I feel one of the major waste/garbage litterred in Himalayas is Plastic Water Bottles as they tend to get crushed making them unsable after 2-3 refillings. I believe, if you carry your own single waterbottle/sipper which can be re-filled being durable enough rather thrown away after being crushed will help us tremendously lowering the littering that happens in Himalayas. In case, you can buy some decent pet bottle or metal bottle or sipper that has longer durability, you will not feel to throw them away.

This way a single group can reduce all those water bottles being thrown away here and there. Well, yes, you can buy a single bottle from the shopkeeper, refill your own and keep that plastic bottle again in the shop or nearby dustbin. This will atleast help a single bottle not being thrown away here and there :)

3. Carry out Cleanliness Drives for a Day at High Passes and Lakes
While going over to Himalayas, especially the Trans Himalayas, the high mountain passes are almost desolated but while taking pictures around the milestones, people does pollute or litter around plastics and all around such passes. Similarly, there is a sorry state of our most beautiful lakes as well in Himalayas.

What you can do as a Responsible tourist is that you or your group can involve locals around the lakes or at passes (if any otherwise DIY ;)) and organize that day as cleanliness drive. You can pick up at least all the plastics, pet bottles, etc.. or other trash thrown by some NERDS around these passes and lakes, put them into the bin or bag you carrying for it and finally throw it into the nearest dustbin. Whatever you bring back will surely help a tiny bit in protecting and preserving the nature plus beauty of our Himalayas.

4. Benefit & Promote the Local Himalayan Lives with your Travel
It is always better to stay with local families, talk to them & people around the remote Himalayan village in order to understand and support their cultural values & beliefs. This creates a great sense of connection to the place in your travel and you are not just traveling for the sake of it BUT to learn something good in your life. Staying in Homestays or Small Guest Houses run by local families actually benefit them monetarily as well and you get a chance to indulge in their day to day life getting lessons of life which otherwise sleeping in a comfortable hotel are far off the tracks.

Hire local villagers for trekking, their porters or their local horsemen so that the local Himalayan people who are in real need actually gets the benefit from your Travel and this is no less than a cause you are doing for their community or locality.

Eat at local dhabhas, restaurants, small eateries, etc.. run by local people and even by items in need including packed food from the small shops available in such villages. This will help them greatly/

Finally, come back and publish such details back over in communities over Internet, do not forget ours ;) . This way you will be promoting and helping them even after travel which goes in long way in cementing transformations in their lives.

Well, I know there are quite very popular but polluted with greed destinations in Himalayas... However, that is not in general. Most locations or destinations in Himalayas are still far away from such kind of polluted greed of locals where they tend to exploit the tourists at worse. Hence, it is safe to go with the idea of promoting as well as benefiting the local lives of Himalayan people especially in the remote and tribal belts.
Last edited by dheerajsharma14 on Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Updated Point 4
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby sany » Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:55 pm

5. BE READY TO HELP

One of the most important thing that i feel should be there apart from the excellent points, which you have already mentioned above is be helpful & be generous. It is not an easy task to be in himalayas on your own, as they can be furious on their own whenever they want. So be helpful to fellow travellers/trekkers/locales. Extend help from your end wherever you can, you never know how needy the other fella might be.

Try and help others as much as you can when you see a needy, dont just ignore and cross someone because you never know when you might need one.

6. Make Friends

Yea, make friends with the locales, you will get to know them closely and will get information which you may never find mentioned in any book or in any travel tale. Also none the less, click pictures of those locales and as a good will print those pictures and send those by post to them. You will soon be making best friends forever and they will readily share information which can not only benefit you but others through your connections.
Last edited by dheerajsharma14 on Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Added numbers to the Tips
The traveler has only one thing on mind.................NOTHING! Keep Going without bothering how its gonna end....
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby dheerajsharma14 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:57 pm

Great points Sandeep bhai!!

And yes, regarding sending the pictures by post, the DoW Mega Meets cum Tours to Himalayas will also be taking pictures of the people of that particular region if someone has already clicked in their earlier trips and willing to share or send them back to those people. For example, we will be taking back the pictures clicked by Aashish in Ladakh for locals and then distribute them there to them in the upcoming DoW Ladakh Mega Meet in September. This is one of the responsibilities of the Travel Mentor of our Adventure Club who will be leading that Mega Meet in Himalayas.

Regarding the first point, very valid and yet simple, still I see people ignore. Try to give lifts as well to locals in case you can, you will always get good wishes or may be offered a break with a cup of tea at their homes. Sometimes, using public transport also helps in getting to know local and getting to know valuable information from them :)
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby tapan » Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:22 pm

Great points all. I just feel like adding a couple for now. These are:

7. Music being played loudly

Typically people from the plains tend to play loud music in their cars in the mountains. It sounds very jarring; destroys peace and tranquility of the place and startles the local fauna. If you must, turn down the volume or even better, use earphones or headphones (definitely not while driving)

8. Graffiti

At too many places, people have this urge to record their presence at every site that they reach. Pristine places get defaced and in its place are ugly announcements of either somebody's visit or their love for some other individual. Tree barks, stones, benches - everything and anything is game for such people. People, please leave the sites in their natural state.

Like someone said, 'take nothing but photographs, leave nothing behind except footprints...'
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby dheerajsharma14 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:20 pm

Tapan, great suggestions up here, seriously I have seen people drinking and dancing over passes. For the information of many up here, the high mountain passes are almost like places of worships for the locals as because of their humbleness that these routes are connected and they believe that the purity of the places shall not be disturbed at all and by any means RESPECTED !!

9. Avoid Touching the Prayer Flags and Mani Walls
When traveling to Buddhists places like Ladakh, Zanskar, Tibet, Nepal,Sikkim, etc.. you can see Prayer Flags at almost many places or stones stacked up at places in the form of Mani Walls, all having sacred mantras on them. PLEASE DO NOT touch by hand or by feet, these prayer flags or mani stones or other sacred things in the high lands of Himalayas or anywhere because they are there to spread the purity as well as protect us by spreading across with the wind flowing in all directions of the globe from these highest of passes or positions. Touching these sacred things unbalances their purity and are always taken negatively by locals as a matter of disrespect to their culture.

10. Always do things in Clockwise Direction
While walking or driving or riding across the Stupas, flags, rotating the prayer wheels, getting around the mani walls, monasteries, etc.. you will mostly find the space around them is quite wide. The idea of the empty space behind them is to walk or drive or ride across them always in Clockwise Direction only.

Even I have seen people rotating the prayer wheels in the directions they walk due to convenience. Well, instead of convenience on MUST always walk down the other end and then rotate these prayer wheels in CLOCKWISE directions :)
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby tapan » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:46 am

Some more thoughts..

11. Conserve resources, specially Ice/Snow/Water

On our trips to Himalayan destination, we come across streams, rivulets, rivers, lakes, ponds and waterfalls – each with its own beauty and attitude. In our enthusiasm, we sometimes frolic in or near these water bodies. While fun is important, it is critical to remember the larger picture. These are the sources of fresh water. For the flora, fauna and people (and to a large extent for much of India). Please do not pollute these sources. Specifically, never use soap, detergents, oil or any such substance near or in these sources, for washing, cooking or bathing. Enjoy responsibly.

12. Conserve resources, AIR

We can never over-emphasize the need to maintain the purity of the air that we breathe and live in. Specially in the Himalayas (true elsewhere also), each one of us is responsible for our actions. Specifically:
a. Never start a fire with a synthetic substance (rubber, plastic, synthetic fabric, etc) – these emit toxic smoke/fumes and destroy the already depleted oxygen levels. Where absolutely necessary, use natural gas (burns completely and emits no smoke or toxic fumes) or at worst dry grass or fallen wood. Avoid wet grass/wood; they will take a long time lighting, will be smoky and are low heat coefficient.
b. Do not keep your vehicle idling longer than necessary
c. Do not accelerate beyond what is necessary
d. Avoid bon-fires unless necessary for heat/light and/or safety
e. Do not carry/use CFC based aerosols (deos, perfumes, hair spray, etc)

13. Fire Hazard

When you must light a fire (for heat/light/safety), take extreme caution to select a place that is not windy (cinders fly and can cause serious fire hazards). Ideally away from any surrounding vegetation, dig a small pit, and surround the pit with stones to keep the wind out. Check for wind direction and light a fire where even if there were cinders, they would fly away from any vegetation. Once through, extinguish fire completely, pour water to ensure that no cinders are left, fill the pit with the surrounding soil and place the stones on top of the loose soil.
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby dheerajsharma14 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 1:37 pm

Wow, some excellent suggestions Tapan ji!! Made a quick note of it.

14. Avoid Offroading on Wetlands/Grasslands for fun sake
You must avoid offroading on wetlands/grasslands just for fun sake, in Himalayas because these wetlands/grasslands are scarce resources for food and waters for the wildlife/animals in that region and above all to maintain the ecology of the environment at those places to good extent. Offroading unnecessarily while the road has been built around such plains,meadows, etc. for example Moore Plains on Manali - Leh, plains around coming from Tso Moriri to Tso Kar, etc.. where wildlife presence is mush more, shall be avoided at much cost.

Have Fun but Responsibly

15. DO NOT Disturb the Wildlife
Well, I know very basic thing BUT still read people quoting that they saw some heinous nerds throwing stones at birds at Pangong Tso :shock: :o :(

Strange but very true and when the people intervened they started getting in fight. I believe at such a point one must act with locals and frown away such retards off the place. One must always act and protect the wildlife from any disturbances which is annoying for them. Posing for a photo and offering some food, it makes sense still as neither your are disturbing them physically nor destroying their home. So, watch your actions accordingly by considering if similar thing happens to your children too by animals or humans and they are helpless to respond to the call....
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby tapan » Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:53 am

Yes, Dheeraj, those are very important points. Off-roading for the sake of off-roading should be limited to areas that have minimal impact on the environment.

16. Respect for local culture and traditions

Many of us, who are 'western-educated' display a cultural arrogance when we meet locals. Appreciating and respecting local customs is part of our education that broadens our horizons beyond what we know. A lot of local traditions, customs, rituals may seem irrational to our 'Americanized' minds, but hey, those are the traditions that the locals have lived with for decades (and maybe centuries). We are nobody to judge them. So even if you disagree, do not debate there and keep your opinion to yourself and participate respectfully if not reverentially. Enjoy responsibly.
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby NonStopDriver » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:06 pm

17. Ask for permission before clicking photograph of anyone, specially ladies

This, in fact, is not only valid for Himalayas, but anywhere in the world. It is always advisable to seek permission before clicking photograph of any person.

18. DO NOT click photographs of Buddha with you in the frame

The lust to click "I was here" is understandable, however, as per 16. above, getting yourselves in the same frame as Buddha is considered a sin in the Himalayas. Do respect the faith.
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Re: Responsible Travel in Himalayas

Postby aashish2137 » Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:18 pm

NonStopDriver wrote:18. DO NOT click photographs of Buddha with you in the frame

The lust to click "I was here" is understandable, however, as per 16. above, getting yourselves in the same frame as Buddha is considered a sin in the Himalayas. Do respect the faith.


True that. Here's the diktat from Shey Monastery, Ladakh.

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