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Loss of Annapurna Circuit

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Postby Damien Gildea » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:39 am

Interesting pics, John. Namche looks like Manang on steroids. Given how popular the AC has always been, I actually expected Manang to be bigger. But EBC has taken over AC in more recent years in popularity, partly due to the Everest fascination and also cos you don't have to hump over a 5500m pass to get home.

But compared to some remote mountain areas in China, Nepal is nothing. Sichuan and Yunnan are just exploding, in places like Siguniang, Yading and Meili. When I first went in 1998 some of these areas were closed off totally, now they have full-on tourist facilities, and it just grows every year. Due to poverty, corruption and various other things, 'development' in Nepal has actually been quite slow. Though shop signs in Thamel come and go, much of the city last year was very similar to my first visit in 1989. Too much income gets siphoned off and the city is really starting to suffer, hence power and water problems, exacerbated by an influx of country people who no longer want to be farmers.

D
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Postby John Duffield » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:53 pm

Damien Gildea wrote:. Sichuan and Yunnan are just exploding,
D


No doubt.

Here's a "Base Camp" in Sichuan. Every night the women that staffed the place would line dance for their own (and mine) entertainment. They'd go outside, fire up the generator, put on this traditional Tibetan DVD with the long mountain horns and dance. I'd never seen a BC quite like this. When people arrived, they' put on their more traditional outfits.

Image


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Postby fatdad » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:32 pm

Brad Marshall wrote:What always gets me about stories like this is that the authors seem to forget about all the development that has taken place so that they could be there to enjoy what they consider "nature".


I generally agree with your sentiment, but I can tell you haven't been to the area so your comments are misdirected. The issue isn't really "nature", it's the loss of the culture. This is an area that has remained culturally distinct because the only way to get there is the trail (note: one trail) that you (used to) follow for roughly ten days up one remote river valley, cross a 17,800' pass and then hike another ten days down another river valley. It's not next to an airport or a really busy road. It's a day's journey just to get to the village where the trail starts.

The scenery is going to be same whether there's a road there or not. Development happens, but not always to an area's benefit. There'll just be lots more pollution, dust, trash, and likely not much improvement in the lives of the locals. I'm hope I'm wrong on that point but I don't think so.

Maybe we should just pave the JMT. I guess we couldn't complain about that either since we'd have to complain "about all the development that has taken place so they could be there to enjoy" that too.
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Postby gordonye » Wed Mar 31, 2010 11:18 pm

Damien Gildea wrote:Maybe the locals can make some real money without having to deal with cheapskate trekkers bargaining down the price of a room from $5 to $4 while they stand there in their $200 shoes. Only a minority make any money from trekkers anyway.


That's it. Cheapskate trekkers do not help enough financially. It's almost exploitation. If trekking really helps lift the standard of living the locals would have more incentive to preserve it.

dougb wrote:What if they paved a road from Onion Valley to Cedar Grove? It would create jobs and improve the lives of the locals.


Totally different situation here. There are no permanent residents in Kings Canyon so no "locals" to speak of. The locals of Owens valley are sufficiently well-off (and small in number) that they simply don't need more infrastructure to make a living.
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Postby Scott » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:38 am

Maybe the locals can make some real money without having to deal with cheapskate trekkers bargaining down the price of a room from $5 to $4 while they stand there in their $200 shoes.

Cheapskate trekkers do not help enough financially.


One must be careful. Paying higher prices may or may not be a good thing. As I understand it (correct me if wrong), there is a reason why lodging and food prices in the Annapurna area were more or less fixed by the government some years ago (not sure if they still are).

I do know that in the past (especially the 1970’s and early 1980’s) that there were some areas in the Himalaya that experienced “hording problems”. If an expedition or a season of trekkers came through and was willing to pay (or trade) much more than the locals, then few would trade/sell with their neighbors/other villages. If you could sell your neighbor an egg for $0.10 and some foreigners came through and were willing to pay $1 for one egg, then whom are <i>you</i> going to sell to? Having foreigners pay much more may or not always be a good thing and I understand that this was the primary motivation behind the prices being more or less fixed. The Sherpa (and many other ethnic groups) economy has been more heavily reliant on trade rather than agriculture.

Although cheap by western standards, foreigners still do pay higher prices than locals for goods and services (for example the price a porter pays for a meal is (or was) also fixed. Over all, from a monetary standpoint, trekking has been positive for Nepal and the regions where trekkers visit. Most of the locals want the trekkers there and try to attract them and are warm and welcoming towards them.

As far as being cheapskates, it seems like most of the clean water and electricity (among others) projects in Nepal have come from aid from Europe, Japan, China and the United States among others. Just a quick search shows how much foreign aid goes to Nepal:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_aid_to_Nepal
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Postby Damien Gildea » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:17 am

Scott wrote:... trekking has been positive for Nepal and the regions where trekkers visit. Most of the locals want the trekkers there and try to attract them and are warm and welcoming towards them.


Yes but because trekkers are just more profitable than what they had before - which was nothing. If they can get something more profitable than trekkers, why not?

As far as being cheapskates, it seems like most of the clean water and electricity (among others) projects in Nepal have come from aid


That's an irrelevant comparison. Individual tourists on holiday vs. governments of foreign nations acting on the world stage? Very different things.

Much of the early aid was Swiss, more recently it is Chinese, and that is largely for strategic and political reasons.
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Postby LinTheDjinn » Sat Apr 24, 2010 7:47 am

Damien Gildea wrote:Yes but because trekkers are just more profitable than what they had before - which was nothing. If they can get something more profitable than trekkers, why not?


Bhutan has chosen that way and Mustang in Nepal is like that. Which way is most profitable?
2000 rich tourists to Bhutan spending 3000 USD or 20 000 backpackers spending 300 USD?
Which is better for the poor?
:roll:

Damien Gildea wrote:Much of the early aid was Swiss, more recently it is Chinese, and that is largely for strategic and political reasons.


And economic.
China is now **helping** Nepal with another border crossing. The old Friendship Highway border Kodari/Zhangmu will not be the main border when the new road is finished.
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Postby Brad Marshall » Sat Apr 24, 2010 4:12 pm

I generally agree with your sentiment, but I can tell you haven't been to the area so your comments are misdirected. The issue isn't really "nature", it's the loss of the culture. This is an area that has remained culturally distinct because the only way to get there is the trail (note: one trail) that you (used to) follow for roughly ten days up one remote river valley, cross a 17,800' pass and then hike another ten days down another river valley. It's not next to an airport or a really busy road. It's a day's journey just to get to the village where the trail starts.

The scenery is going to be same whether there's a road there or not. Development happens, but not always to an area's benefit. There'll just be lots more pollution, dust, trash, and likely not much improvement in the lives of the locals. I'm hope I'm wrong on that point but I don't think so.

Maybe we should just pave the JMT. I guess we couldn't complain about that either since we'd have to complain "about all the development that has taken place so they could be there to enjoy" that too.


You are correct, I have not been to the area, but I don't believe my comments are misdirected. Whether we discuss nature or culture my point is that some people don't want things to change for their sake without giving consideration to others. I doubt this area is culturally distinct to those who live there but it sounds like it is to people just passing through. Development in any area may have a net positive or negative effect on the population but who are we to say "don't change"?

As for paving the JMT I don't believe it is comparable. Perhaps if the US wasn't as developed as it is and people lived along the JMT depending on it for their existence they would end building roads to make their lives easier. Again, if they did who am I to say don't do it.
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Postby Scott » Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:32 am

Yes but because trekkers are just more profitable than what they had before - which was nothing.


So overall, I think tourism and trekking has been positive economically. I don't think the trekkers share any blame in making Nepal poor (in money at least; the people I met there were some of the friendliest in the worl, even though their lives are hard). When comparing the regions in Nepal that are popular with trekkers vs. the ones that aren't you can see that for better or worse, trekking (or climbing) has brought wealth. By Nepal standards, it seems (from what I've seen at least) the people along places like the Annapurna treks are overall weathier than they are off the beaten track. Even so, for reasons listed above, raising the prices for services may or may not be a good thing and there are reasons why they were more or less fixed. It could have both positive and negative effects.

If they can get something more profitable than trekkers, why not?


No reason at all. They have a right to make a living too. No one should be telling them they can't build a road unless the same people are willing to give up their roads at home.
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Postby gordonye » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:15 pm

LinTheDjinn wrote:
Damien Gildea wrote:Yes but because trekkers are just more profitable than what they had before - which was nothing. If they can get something more profitable than trekkers, why not?


Bhutan has chosen that way and Mustang in Nepal is like that. Which way is most profitable?
2000 rich tourists to Bhutan spending 3000 USD or 20 000 backpackers spending 300 USD?
Which is better for the poor?
:roll:


2000 rich tourists will likely consume less resources (food, fuel, etc.) than 20000 backpackers, therefore make less impact on the local environment. Whether it is better for the poor depends on how the revenue is distributed to the poor.
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Re: Loss of Annapurna Circuit

Postby Garon Coriz » Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:48 am

I'm always against the incessant encroachment of man into the wild no matter where it is.

I must say that I agree with Damien about the whole idea about people "consuming" these wild places and bringing with them the horror they tried to leave behind. I saw the same thing in Peru. People want to experience the wild but have luxury and convenience close at hand. It reminds me of the American west where everyone wants to live on the outskirts of town but are soon overtaken by others who build just beyond them, seeking to quench their own similar desires.

We also think from our own perspective when it comes to the idea of modernization. Who has the right to say what is an actual improvement upon things that have existed in their state for ages? I come from a Native American reservation in the United States where we choose not to "improve" our roads with asphalt because we believe in maintaining a connection to the dirt beneath our feet, the earth that gave us the chance to experience life.

I don't know, I'm rambling now. Peace. :?
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Re: Loss of Annapurna Circuit

Postby Scott » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:31 pm

According to the new Trailblazer book that came out, it seems like the road's intended purpose backfired, at least for now.

Pg 190, Nepal Trekking and the Great Himalaya Trail [info in brackets added by me]:

In 2005, the Nepali government embarked on an extensive road construction program in the Annapurna region. The plan was for two roads, one from Besishahar to Manang, and the other to link Beni (near Pokhara) to Lo Monthang (Mustang) and Mukinath. The Chinese had already built a dirt road to Lo Monthang from Tibet and, it was hoped, these new roads would increase development in the region.

The road to Manang is still far from complete [it was scheduled to be completed in 2011, but was delayed due to a shortage of funds]. However, the road to Mukinath is finished and jeep traffic and small buses journey Beni to Jomsom in about seven hours [formerly seven days]. The impact on the tourism industry has been immediate and dramatic. Villages in the Kali Gendaki valley are suffering from a sudden and almost complete drop in tourism. Businesses that have flourished for more than twenty years have closed and locals are leaving the region in growing numbers.

Those who are staying are pinning their hopes on a government backed plan to build a new trekking route from Mukinath to Poon Hill, but this wasn't expected to be complete until 2011, and perhaps it will take another year or two before tea houses can be built and the necessary
[at least from a money making standpoint in order for the tourism industry to recover some of it's former popularity] services put in place. The owner of Mountain View Teahouse in Jomsom is expecting to have to rely on family savings for the next five years and the hope that one day trekkers may return [since the new route will still parallel the road, albeit from the other side of the river, I would venture to guess that the trek will probably never achieve its former popularity].
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Re: Loss of Annapurna Circuit

Postby fatdad » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:47 pm

What a bummer. I can't say that it was unforeseeable either. :(
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Re: Loss of Annapurna Circuit

Postby Bill Reed » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:57 am

Not trying to piss anybody off here but after reading all this, I gotta say what I gotta say. It's a shame that some things have to change, but the reality is - all things have to change........

Looks like what we westerners used to call progress and it sounds we don't like it so much when it happens to one of our private "quaint little wild (if you can afford it) places." We've trashed the planet for a long time and yet don't seem to understand why others, climbing the ladder of civilization (as we did), want their own chance to trash it. Shame on them!

It must be because we've risen above the intelligence level of the world's huddled masses and obviously see things much more clearly and, as any enlightened people, feel the need to share our wisdom with them, the little, quaint people of the world (with those cute, colorful costumes). I don't understand why these folks don't seem to see how they were intended to fit into the scheme of the universe when it's so clear to us - Serve us tea, let us sleep under your roof and please,......don't change anything.

Next they'll want flush toilets.... :wink:
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Re: Loss of Annapurna Circuit

Postby trekker01 » Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:26 pm

I just trekked Annapurna Circuit April 3rd to15th 2012 and it was pretty nice trekking but over all I woud have to say that the trek is finished. Sixy ears ago the trek truly was amazing but now you have buses honking, motor bikes and construction going on through out the trek. If you want to have a peaceful hike then you have to be creative and know the side trails well. All of the transport prices, buses and jeeps are set at a ridiciously high price. It seems the locals know the circuit is finished and they want to make some fast cash before tourist totally stop trekking the circuit.
Upper Mustang, Lantang, ABC, and Manaslu are all amazing treks that are peacful without busy roads next to them. I would highly recomend doing one of these treks over Annapurna Circuit. Enoy Nepal!!
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