A series of devastating earthquakes in April and May in Nepal at the beginning of its tourism and mountaineering season have turned away Pune-based mountaineering groups and travel agencies from the Himalayan nation and forced them to look for other options.
Giripremi, a city-based mountaineering group that includes 11 mountaineers that climbed Mt. Everest, had planned three expeditions this year, two in Himachal Pradesh and one on the Tibetan-Nepalese border to celebrate Tenzing Norgay’s 100th birth anniversary. While the Himachal expeditions to Mt. Indrasan and Peak 5260 are still on, plans for Tibetan expedition of Mt. Cho Oyu have run into uncertainty.
“Mt. Cho Oyu (8,201 metres) is the sixth highest peak in the world. To go there, one has to go through the Chinese territory. Many mountaineers from all over the world go there every year. But the earthquake has caused a lot of damage to the basic infrastructure. Fortunately, China has started reconstruction at a great pace and if everything goes well, the project could get a green signal in a couple of months,” says Umesh Zirpe, leader of the expedition.
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Chances of people going to Everest base camp tours are, however, bleak for at least a year, Zirpe says. “The base camp is on Khumbu glacier. Earthquake has destroyed it completely. So, no touring agency or mountaineering group will be able to go there till April next year. On the other hand, it will increase tourism in Indian Himalaya’s Pir Panjal, Zanskar, Ladakh and East Korakoram ranges,” he says.
Like Giripremi, which was caught in the earthquake, a team of Yuva Shakti Himalayan Adventures too saw the disaster first-hand.
According to Vishwanath Sahasrabuddhe, head of Himalayan Adventures, the team remained safe because they listened to the instructions of the locals. “The villagers told our team to leave a bit late as they feared something worse was going to happen. They were right. Massive landslides and avalanches occurred moments later at the base camp. I would suggest tourists to listen to the locals,” says Sahasrabuddhe. Yuva Shakti is now arranging treks for Roopkund, Dodital and Valley of flowers.
The tourism industry in the city has also received a setback after the calamity in Nepal. City-based Prasanna Holidays had to convince their customers to go to Darjeeling and Gangtok after the quake.
“Two batches of 20 people each were called back from Delhi airport once the news of earthquake came. We relocated them to different destinations. Till October, we have cancelled all our Nepal tours. Depending upon the conditions then, we’ll take a decision whether to resume the services in Nepal or not,” says Sheetal Adkar, a sales executive at Prasanna Holidays.
Anil Shiralkar, a tourist who had to switch to Manali from Nepal due to the disaster, said, “It was disappointing to make a change so late as we were eager to see Nepal and Pashupatinath temple. But after seeing the damage done to the country, we also felt lucky that we were not there. Hopefully, we will visit Nepal soon in the future.”