For the second year in a row a group of students from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC traveled to the Garhwal region of the Himalaya. Dr. Keith Bosak and Dr. Kathleen Schroeder from Appalachian State University lead six students, three undergraduate and three graduate, on a summer field course.
The group was also accompanied by Misty Mayfield an instructor at Appalachian State University and Laura Caplins an Appalachian State University graduate. Mayfield who teaches World Regional Geography took this opportunity to expand her practical knowledge of India. Caplins, a member of last years field course, returned to conduct research entitled “A Woman’s Place? Mountain tourism and Women’s Empowerment in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve” partially funded by a research grant from the American Alpine Club.
Students also received credit for Sustainable Mountain Development and Mountain Geography. From May 11 to June 1, 2006 students took part in a cultural tour of the Garhwal which included academic interaction, trekking, gear donation, community service project, community interactions, and a visit to the Ganges.
After arriving in Delhi, the group traveled by train to Hardiwar and then bus to Rishikesh. While in Rishikesh the group took part in an academic interaction which was organized by the Department of Botany, Govt. Post Graduate College, Rishikesh in association with and sponsored by the Uttarakhand State Council for Science and Technology, Dehradun at Vasundhara Palace, Muni-ki-Reti, Rishikesh on May 13th, 2006. This interaction meeting was attended by 50 participants, which included 10 faculty members, scientists and students of the Appalachian State University, USA, and faculty members and research scholars of the Departments of Botany, Geography, Geology, Physics and Commerce of the Govt. Post Graduate College, Rishikesh. The conveyer of the interaction, Dr. Govind S. Rajwar, is from the Department of Botany, Government Post Graduate College and is actively engaged in research on ecology, conservation and management of Garhwal Himalaya and has been for over 29 years. Dr. Rajwar mentioned the need of such interactions for exchanging the ideas and collaboration of research activities between the institutions of India in general and Uttarakhand in particular. Dr. Rajendra Dobhal, Director, Uttarakhand State Council for Science and Technology in his inaugural address also stressed the need for exchange of research and academic progress between the scientists and academia of Uttarakhand with their counterparts in foreign countries who are also working on science and technology of hilly areas. He called for the development of science and technology and dissemination of this knowledge and popularization of science and technology in the masses. Presentations by Dr. Bosak, Dr. Schroeder, and Ms. Caplins were given followed by a discussion. Dr. Schroeder spoke on the “Politics of Natural Gas in Bolivia”, Dr. Bosak spoke on “Nanda Devi: Technological and scientific applications for community based ecotourism”, and Ms. Caplins spoke on “Conflicts between mining and tourism in the Cordon Ramada, Argentina. Pratiba Naitthani represented the Alliance for Development with closing remarks stressing the need of academic interaction and called it academic tourism since most of such academic field visits by foreign students lack the interaction with the scientists of this area, which should be essential for exchange of ideas and experiences.
The trekking portion of the trip began with a short hike from the road head to Wan for a night at the GMVN rest house. The following day the group trekked to Bedni gaining over 1000 meters in elevation. From Bedni the intended destination of Baguwbasa was amended as unseasonably cool weather had left the camping area covered with snow. Instead the group camped at Patar Nachine at 4000 meters in elevation. Two nights were spent at Patar Nachonia. with a day hike to over 4400 meters in the direction of Roopkund. Knee deep snow stopped the group from making it to Roopkund, but many in the group made it to a personal high in elevation. Leaving Patar Nachonia., the group dropped down to Kanol for another stay at a Forest Rest House. The last day was spent walking out to Setail and then taking jeeps to Lata.
In Lata the group presented the gear collected from the “Gear for the Garhwal” to representatives from the Nanda Devi Campaign. The total amount of gear collected was quite impressive, totaling an estimated $10,000 US. During their stay in Lata, ASU students also performed a community service project, leveling a vacant plot of land for the foundation of the community center. Students also participated in cultural interactions with villagers and even spent some time helping in the fields. From Lata, the ASU group traveled the entire length of the Niti valley. With an overnight stay in Ghamsali and a trek to Niti, the last village before the Tibetan border, the students were treated to a look back in time. Both Ghamsali and Niti once played integral roles in trans-Himalayan trade and both villages display traditional architecture with ornately carved wood features. The students were quite impressed with the craftsmanship and got a true feel for the wealth that was generated through the trade with Tibet.
After returning to Lata, the students trekked to Lathi Kharak and Sani Kharak to take in some breathtaking views of the Rishi gorge and the majestic peak of Nanda Devi. The weather was clear and crisp and one could see all of the peaks of the NDBR core zone including Trisul, Bethartoli, Nanda Gunti and Dronagiri.
Sadly, the trek to Lata Kharak marked the end of the activities in the NDBR. From Sani Kharak, the group made their downhill progress back to Lata and then Rishikesh and Haridwar and finally Delhi (with a stop in Agra to see the Taj Mahal). This year’s field course was a special and unforgettable trip for all of us and we wish to thank everyone who was involved in providing us with an experience that we will treasure in our hearts forever.
By Laura Caplins
Department of Geography & Planning
Appalachian State University
June 20, 2006