Sunday, 18 August 2013

Foreign tourists give a miss to Himalayan mountains

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Decrease in number of foreign trekkers on famous trekking routes of Himachal is pinching the tourism industry of the state this season. Despite peak trekking season, most of the routes are wearing deserted look and cancellations of tours are continuing for coming months.
Trekking in Himachal Pradesh, India
After slowdown in domestic tourism, very few tourists from abroad are daring to visit mountainous regions in north India. Main reason is again the recent devastation in Uttarakhand and Kinnaur and suspension of flights to Shimla and Kullu till September 15. Rumors of landslides, rigorous monsoon and dozens of cloudbursts in Himachal is another reason that tourists from abroad are concerned about their safety and preferring cancellation of their Himachal visit. According to travel agents, dozens of cancellations are taking place every day.
Spiti circuit of Himachal, which is famous among foreign tourists, is most affected by sharp drop in tourists this year. Bhaba pass trek, Kanamo peak trek, Prang La treks, Pangpo, Pin Valley and Sara Umga pass are the popular treks to Spiti valley among foreign trekkers. But all these routes are craving for guests from abroad.
“There is no particular reason behind drop in arrival of tourists from abroad but we have bunch full of reasons. International media presented cloudbursts and floods in some parts of India in a way that visiting hills is not less than jumping into hell,” managing director of Himalayan Caravan Adventure, Ravi Thakur, said. According to him, very few tourists have reached Himachal this year and several jeep safari and bike tours on Shimla-Kinnaur-Spiti have already been cancelled. “Very few trekking expeditions we have got this year,” he adds.
4.8 lakh foreign tourists visited Himachal last year and 1.4 lakh foreigners visited Kullu district alone. July to September is the time when thousands of foreign tourists visit Himachal – mostly for trekking, bike and jeep safari, others for leisure, historical and cultural tours. Kasol, Manikaran, Old Manali and Vashisht are the main destinations where foreigners prefer staying in. But very few foreigners are being spotted in these locations.
“Most of the cancellations are happening at last moment as tourists are keeping track on weather conditions,” a trekking guide in Kasol, Sunil Kumar, said, adding that his customers are afraid of cloudbursts and floods. “Though trekkers have nothing to do with blockade of roads, but they are still concerned about floods and cloudbursts and also if aggressive monsoon would spoil their tour,” he said.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Communal riots destroy adventure tourism along Manali-Kishtwar route

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Riots in Kishtwar have proved fatal for adventure tourism of Himachal along Manali-Kilaar-Kishtwar as most of the bike and jeep safari tours on this route have cancelled for the season. Taxi operators in Himachal are not ready to lend their cabs to tourists for any part of Jammu and Kashmir.

Manali - Kishtwar - Jammu - Srinagar road safari
Daunting Delhi-Manali-Kilaar-Kishtwar-Srinagar route had emerged as one of the most thrilling jeep safari routes of the country in past few years after Kishtwar district saw decrease in militancy. There were many jeep safari tours on this route till late September which are believed to have cancelled due to increasing sectarian tensions in Kishtwar. Lahaul and Pangi regions are most affected by the cancellation of tours.
Dhani Thakur from Himalyan Eagle Adventures said, “I cancelled my bike and jeep safari tour on Kilaar-Kishtwar-Jammu route as I don’t want to take any risk with lives of my clients.” Most of the travel agents are not accepting booking for this route for August month. Some years back it was presumed that this route has many flood prone areas which may block the least maintained road any time and it may take months for authorities to make it worth driving. Even today drivers charge almost double fare to accept booking for this road.
“This route is paradise for adventure lovers but violence in Kishtwar has ruined the season. Some safari tours have diverted to Manali-Leh road while others have cancelled their plans,” said Suresh Sharma from Himachal Vacation Travels and Adventure who organizes safari tours on this route. According to him the entire length of the route is in good condition as the areas along road are receiving almost no rain.
Even a query of hiring cab for Manali-Kishtwar route is sending shivers down the spines of drivers. “Even if somebody pays ten times more fare I will not go on this road. Residents of Kishtwar are putting vehicles on fire. I’m not ready to take the risk,” replies Ghanshyam Thakur, a Manali based taxi driver.
After this route between Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir was gaining popularity, many local residents had erected dhabas and offering accommodation in Gulabgarh, Sol, Kilaar, Purthi, Shor and Tindi who are now suffering the brunt of rare use of this highway by people.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Negligence pushes foreign trekkers into gorge of death in Parvati valley

Himachal Vacation Travel News
KASOL (KULLU): A foreigner tourist, out of excitement or under the influence of charas, goes for trekking on fascinating but dangerous mountains of Parvati valley in Kullu and loses his way back to the valley. Next day help is sought from Chhape Ram and his team, a renowned rescuer in the valley, and they recover his body from a gorge. Such stories have become common in Kullu.
Foreigners organizing a party in Kasol, Manikaran

Parvati valley, famous for world class Malana cream, has become a haunted place where trekkers, mostly from abroad, are felling to death one after another. Reasons are unknown but in most of the cases bodies were found in places far away from the trekking trail. Experts say negligence and consumption of drugs were putting these trekkers in trouble. In many cases it was noticed that trekker was alone and trying to climb a mountain face with no path.
“We found body of Czech national Petr Slanina at a place near Chhalal village where no path was leading. He might have deviated from the trail and tried to climb a dangerous hill with no existing path. He was alone and it was the biggest mistake that he did,” said Chhape Ram Negi of Negi’s Himalayan Adventure who is an authorized rescuer of Israeli nationals in India. “Charas and guts to go alone on mountains are the main enemies of foreign trekkers. They can spend thousands on charas but refuse to hire a local guide,” he added.
Charas makes person fearless and kills his capability of understanding the situation. It was noticed that hotel and guest house owners in Manikaran and Kasol area were not guiding their guests properly. “Surprisingly most of the accidents happened in circumference of only 2-3km around Kasol village. They underestimated the mountains and lost their lives. If cold have lived if they had hired guides,” Negi said.
Trekking in Parvati valley is unsafe without guide
In one another incident of July month, a tourist from England went on trekking alone, chosen a wrong path and tried to climb a mountain without any existing trail. He could not find way back to valley and spent whole night in wilderness. Next morning Negi and his team left for his search and found that the trekker was coming back to the valley with scratch marks on his whole body. “He told us that he fell down from a hill while trying to climb it. He could not trace the path to valley. He was seriously injured and somehow managed to find the path.”
All the trekking and village routes in Parvati valley have several diversions which confuse the new trekker. Choosing a wrong path may lead to a gorge with dead end. Body of a 23-year-old youth from Mumbai, Kshitij Goel, was found near Grahan Nullah on April 2. He was missing since November 10, 2012. Police say they have been advising tourists not to go for trekking without proper arrangements but some people don’t want to hear them.
Kasol, the haven for tourists from Israel, Italy, UK, Germany and France, has become notorious for charas and deaths of foreign nationals. Apart from the 21 deaths in last seven years, 18 foreigners have gone missing in Kullu since 1992 and majority of them were staying in Parvati valley. July to mid October is the peak trekking season in Himachal.