Trekking in the Himalaya’s

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Trekking in the Himalaya’s

When people hear about India, some of the first adjectives that come to mind are; hot, chaos and noises. But these kinds of characteristics describe only half of the sweet and sour madness of India. However, in the north of India everything changes, especially in the Himalayan area.

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The first impression I had when I arrived in Naddi, was to wonder whether I was going to wake up to this landscape every day, and yes, fortunately my thoughts became real. Next my thoughts wondered to what beauty I might discover and what I would see around the area, for sure there have to be a lot of places to trek and relax in peaceful areas! And I was right.

One of the first treks I did was to the river and waterfall that provides water to the villages in the surrounding area. The water in India is not known as the best water in the world, especially in Delhi (the famous Delhi Belly that nobody would like to experience). So, one of the main questions that you might wonder is where the water from the pipes is coming from? You can see many pipes everywhere, all kinds, thin, thick, leaking pipes etc, so we tried to find the origin of this water and see how it looked. First of all, we went from Naddi to Galu temple. Galu temple is one of the starting points for the trek to Triund (one of the most popular of the area). So during this first stage of the journey, we decided to go in the direction to the waterfall instead of Triund. When we reached the river (amazing area by the way) we decided to go further, following the big pipe. It was pretty tough but funny at the same time, especially when my friend Nigel had to slide down to the wall, it was very easy to slip in that area, I could see the fear on his face. Finally we reached the source of the pipe, the water was very clear, pure and fresh water, but there is one thing you never know in Himalaya Mountains, what is it above this river? There will always be something else, so you better be even more aware if you are not Indian. So, at the end we decided to relax on a huge rock staring down the valley and releasing our minds for a while.

On the second trek, we went to Guna Temple, surprisingly more people than I expected came. It was really motivating to gather a big part of the team and people from the community together. Everything was fine until we arrived to the steps which were pretty steep. You could see the faces of the team slightly change. On this trek we could see the international school on the top of the hill, pretty isolated. After 1 hour and 30 minutes we finished one of the most traditional treks from Naddi, Guna Temple. I had been trying to organise this trek since I arrived, but something would always show up and mess up my plans. You never know what the weather’s like in Himalaya, but finally we got it and we enjoyed this special day.

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The last trek was one of the most looked forward to by the team. For two months since I’ve been here, the weather and the snow have been a big issue, especially in Triund, where you go to 2900 meters and the level of the snow, is most likely going to be twice as much on the top than in Naddi.. The day was perfect; no cloud was going to disturb our view from the top. After 3 hours, we arrived at Triund. We were excited to reach this place and to enjoy the beauty of the area with these specials landscapes. Meanwhile, we started to take all kind of pictures, jumping, meditating, team picture, etc. It was one of the best feelings that you don’t want to forget, breathing fresh air and being away from the pollution of the cities. And in that moment is when I reflect on my point of view about India. Was it how I thought? Definitely not! In spite of overcrowding of people in India, there are still places where you can relax, lose yourself in this incredible environment and feel free for a while.

 

 

Staying in the Eco Home Stay’s

Himalaya homestays

An incredible view to wake up to

Last week Savita, one of the girls that has a home-stay hosted her first guest from outside our little NGO. The guest was an Indian man from Kolkata coming to Naddi, in Dharamshala, to attend a Yoga seminar. He stayed 6 nights at Savita’s Eco Home-stays and enjoyed very much staying with a local family and waking up every morning with a beautiful view to the mountains.

At first, he was mostly interested about the low price of the room. He was passing in front of the Restore, recently reopen after the monsoon, and saw the advertisement sign I had put there. He asked to see the room and as we were going down the mountain, in the path that leads to the community we work with, I was explaining him the principles of the Eco home-stays. Principles that have a lot to do with the principles of Eco tourism.

I was also explaining these principles to Savita and Milan (another young woman that has a home-stay with us) this week in the first vocational training class in the brand new Education and Career Resource Centre (ECRC). The ECRC is a small house that now belongs to the local women to do different kind of educational courses such as English, IT, Vocational training and life skills development.

In one of our classes we discussed the principles of Eco Tourism such as:

Eco tourism involves travel to natural destinations; Naddi is a beautiful place that is being transformed by a unsustainable tourism. Big investors build “resorts” here without enough control from the government. “Resorts” here are big, gray and ugly buildings that most of the year stay almost empty. Many of those buildings start being built and then are abandoned. The Eco home-stays are an alternative for staying in Naddi without having to contribute to the change of the actual landscape from green to gray.

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One of the big grey hotels being built in Naddi

Eco tourism minimizes impact; by adopting the simple life-style of the locals a tourist reduces his waste. It means less packaging, since the tourist will eat local cucumbers, local milk, rice and lentils instead of consuming for example chocolate, water from plastic bottles and tea from paper cups.

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Uncontrolled waste.

Eco tourism builds environmental awareness; the classes in the ECRC will bring environmental awareness to the young women that are involved in the project. I hope they will continue spreading the word and also show guests how they separate and dispose waste. I’m getting feedback from them and seeing that this is happening already.

Eco tourism provides direct financial benefits for conservation; this is a next stage of the project. I expect that once the young women get enough revenue they will start investing in improvements for environmental conservation like for example buying trash bins for the rooms and toilets. I’m encouraging them to do this and I’m planning on making trash bins from bamboo to provide a way for the guests to separate trash by themselves.

Eco tourism provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people; by giving small loans to young women in this small community in Naddi we encourage the local people to compete with the big investors and big hotels. By doing so, they should get a more fair part of the tourism revenue available in this place in the Himalayas. This is all about a more fair distribution of revenues and giving locals the power of taking care of the environment they live in.

Eco tourism respects local culture; the Eco home-stays project not only respect local culture but wants to encourage locals to keep their culture strong and alive. I work so they are proud of it and sharing with the tourists their Gaddi culture, the culture from the people that live in the mountains.

Eco tourism supports human rights and democratic movements; the integration between our NGO’s projects allows the young women owners of home-stays to have classes at the ECRC about women rights and democracy. The fact of working only with local women is also meant to provide more independence and a stronger voice for the women in a country that is still very much male dominated.

Cristiano Valente, Brazil
Eco home-stays project managerIMG_0404

What can I do when I travel

What can I do when I travel for holiday or work?

In the recent years, the travel industry is the fastest growing industry in the world. There are about 1 billion international arrivals worldwide according to the World Tourism Organization. And, each arrival leaves its footprint behind. While traveling for business or pleasure try to minimize your impact on the environment.

Whether you are traveling to work, a conference, important meeting, island retreat or an amusement park, or even volunteer work and education, you can be conscious of your impact on the environment. Here are some green traveling tips to help you have a fun and eco-friendly trip.

Planning Your Trip:

  • Look for hotel accommodations and tours that carry environmental friendly certifications or memberships in green industry associations – such as Green Seal or Green Leaf. Several organizations have developed standards to measure the environmental initiatives of hotels and tours. Standards vary depending on the organization; however, green hotels and tours include reducing energy consumption through fluorescent lighting, instituting recycling programs, conserving water either through installation of energy star products or by asking patrons to reuse towels and by purchasing local organic foods. When hotels and tours meet these standards, they are certified as “green.”
  • Select a hotel close to public transportation or near the places you are going to visit during your stay.
  • When flying, book electronic tickets. It reduces paper waste and you are less likely to lose your ticket.

Before You Go:

  • Pull the plug on any unnecessary appliances – such TVs, VCRs, stereos, toasters, and microwaves. These items can still use energy in their off mode.
  • Set your thermostat and water heater at low settings so that energy isn’t wasted while you are gone.
  • Stop your newspaper or donate the paper to a school while you are gone.

When You’re There:

  • If the hotel has an environmental program, participate as much as possible. If you have any questions about how, simply ask when you check in.
  • Never leave lights on when you are not in the room.
  • Lower the thermostat when you leave the room for long periods of time.
  • If your destination is a warm climate then close the drapes. Or, if you have Venetian blinds, angle them up to bounce the sunlight off the ceiling. This will keep the room cooler. Conversely, let the sun warm up your room during the day if you are in a cooler climate.
  • Leave unopened shampoo, soap, and other items in the hotel unless you are taking it home to use.
  • Avoid room service and carry-out which increase waste.
  • Use water sparingly. In some places this is a very scarce resource.
  • Never buy items made from endangered species.
  • Walk or use public transportation.
  • Grab only the maps and brochures that you will actually use. If in a large group, share brochures whenever possible.
  • Take pictures and leave the location as you found it. Never remove wildlife from it’s natural environment including shells, flowers and coral.
  • When hiking or camping, stay only in marked areas to avoid destroying vegetation.
  • Buy locally produced produce in order to reduce the pollution required to import goods.

When You Come Home:

Write a letter or email to your hotel or tour guide telling them that you appreciate their efforts to minimize the impact on the environment. This will encourage them to promote and institute more environmentally friendly activities.

Volunteer travel defined

Volunteer travelvolunteer vacations or voluntourism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. In recent years, “bite-sized” volunteer vacations have grown in popularity.Volunteer vacations vary widely in scope, from low-skill work cleaning up local wildlife areas to providing high-skill medical aid in a foreign country. Volunteer vacations participants are diverse but typically share a desire to “do something good” while also experiencing new places and challenges in locales they might not otherwise visit.

There are also other types of traveling that engage people with scientific research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Participants cover a fee that would include expenses on the different sites worldwide, and engage in projects according to their interest or location.

Reducing your travel footprint

Undeniably, each arrival has an environmental cost. You’ve probably heard that old adage “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” – what can you do to have a positive impact and reduce your travel footprint? Eco Volunteer Travel’s eco-friendly travel tips can help. Some steps are small; others require a bit more planning, but they can all make a difference—especially if we do them together.

Pack your environmental ethics

Even the most environmentally conscious consumers tend to leave their green routines at home. In fact, the majority of travellers ignore their usual eco-friendly habits, such as using less water and turning off the lights, while on the road. Most people aren’t as concerned about the planet when they’re travelling—80 percent have never taken an eco-friendly vacation. When you’re out and about, try to keep up the good habits you have at home.

Stay at eco-friendly lodging or an ‘EcoHomeStay’

When booking your trip, support environmentally conscious hospitality management by choosing accommodation with eco-friendly certifications or memberships in green industry associations.

Highly regarded green lodging certification programs include Green Globe, Green Seal, and the Sustainable Tourism Education Program (STEP). To find more credible eco-label and certification programs worldwide, check out non-profit Sustainable Travel International’s handy overview.

One organisation in India at the forefront of sustainable tourism is ‘EcoHomeStaysIndia’. It advances in energy management, water conservation and community outreach with basic facilities compensating for hotel luxuries.

Can’t book eco-certified accommodation? Look for comfortable yet basic options. Smaller rooms with fewer amenities use less resources, and newer hotels are likely more energy-efficient.

Choose a responsible tour provider

Ten years after the UN declared 2002 the International Year of Ecotourism, it’s never been easier to book eco-conscious trips. All over the world, there are tour companies with sustainability in mind. Read how to evaluate responsible tour companies or see a checklist of important questions to ask when booking travel. If you’re looking to explore, enjoy and protect the planet, we recommend Natural Habitat Adventures, the official conservation travel partner for the World Wildlife Fund and a leader in responsible nature travel for more than 25 years (even better—it’s the world’s first 100-percent carbon-neutral travel company). We also love G Adventures, who integrate sustainability into every decision they make while offering unforgettable small-group adventures, averaging just 10 to 15 travellers per trip. In 2003, they started the Planeterra Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and support of small communities around the globe, and offer a wealth of information for the conscientious traveller, such as these sustainable travel tips. Other outdoor adventure experts committed to responsible travel are listed in the directories of the International Ecotourism Society and Sustainable Travel International.

Give back through donations or Volunteer Work

Make a positive impact on the community or destination you visit by giving back—donate or volunteer with a local environmental organization or pitch in at a roadside cleanup, for example. Or combine your love of travel with philanthropy by taking part in the growing “voluntourism” movement. Imagine contributing—in a very tangible way—to conservation efforts. We promise you’ll gain new perspective and make the world a better place.

Choose green transportation

Reduce your dependence on travel options that incur large carbon footprints. Not surprisingly, air travel is the worst offender, accounting for four to nine percent of the total climate change impact of human activity. According to Sustainable Travel International’s carbon calculator, a round-trip economy-class flight from Toronto to Delhi generates carbon dioxide emissions of over four tons per person! Seek other methods of transportation when possible—trains and buses are far more energy-efficient. If you must fly, take the most direct route, and check out Greenopia’s airline ratings. Kudos to Costa Rica-based Nature Air, the first airline to offset 100 percent of its carbon emissions.

Plan ahead and come up with creative, car-less ways to explore an area. The planet (and your wallet) will thank you. Check Google Transit to see your options (bus, subway, streetcar, water taxi, etc.). And there’s no better way to get to know an area than by walking or cycling—look for bike-share programs. If you must rent a vehicle, look for car-sharing services or choose a hybrid or fuel-efficient car.

To further reduce your trip’s emissions, you can buy carbon offsets. Visit Sustainable Travel International to learn about this innovative idea, calculate your carbon footprint and purchase offsets.

Have a “staycation”

Take a vacation where you live! A “staycation” is not only kind to your finances and the planet, but also less stressful than going abroad. Support your local economy while enjoying all the things in your city that you’re usually too busy to appreciate. Visit parks, museums, festivals and neighbourhoods you’ve never explored. Find a green event. If possible, ditch the car and walk, take public transit or ride a bike.

Use your staycation to (literally) get a taste of where you live. Try local cuisine, visit a farmers’ market or tour a farm. Learn more about your region’s specialties and embark on culinary adventures.

Slow down and spend time with nature. Visit parks or green spaces. Take your family to the beach or lake. No matter where you go, tread lightly. For tips on enjoying the great outdoors responsibly, visit our resources or write to us.

Every action helps. With almost a billion tourists on the move each year, it’s more important than ever for travellers to minimize their environmental impact. Protect the places you visit and live in—not only for yourself, but for future generations of explorers.

We always love to hear from you. Are you planning an eco-conscious vacation or travel, or do you have eco travel tips to share? E-mail us at – info@ecovolunteertravel.com

Responsible travel

Responsible travel is the cornerstone of Eco Volunteer travel.  Responsible travel means that the individuals, organisations and businesses we are associated with follow ethical cultural and environmental sensitivity, ensuring that your adventure is environmentally, culturally and socially sustainable.

We minimise the negative impacts of travel and maximise the benefits to the regions we travel through. It is implemented on our trips through the following features:

  • We are committed to improving social and environmental development in the communities and regions we visit by conducting environmental and social volunteer activities.
  • Small groups and customised trips allow travelers to experience cultures first hand, offering greater opportunity for cross- cultural understanding and exchange.
  • We promote global citizenship by improving cultural understanding and encouraging engagement in development issues
  • We utilise local communities as much as possible; we employ local guides to aid travellers understanding of local culture and etiquette.
  • We use locally owned services and local products where possible, to ensure revenue is retained in local communities.
  • We employ services with minimal impact to the environment, such as travelling via local public transport where possible to minimises demand for special tourist vehicles and fuel.

We find that travelling responsibly actually enriches the experience for our clients as they get to have more authentic interactions with locals and get a true feel for the region they are visiting. And they feel great about trips that are engaged in a positive way with the community.