Trekking the Himalayan Mountains while living in villages among native mountain people may thought to be found only in the movies, but Appalachian State University students are getting the chance to do just this.
Through a company called Nature-Link Institute, students from all over the country are getting the chance to participate in a 22-day excursion through the Himalayan Mountains while earning six college credit hours.
Nature-Link Institute is Boone based and founded by Appalachian graduates who have traveled to India and the Himalayan Mountains with the geography department.
Keith Bosak, an Appalachian graduate and co-founder of Nature-Link Institute, co-instructed courses to the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR) in the Garhwal Region of India with Dr. Kathy Schroeder, an associate professor in Appalachian’s geography and planning department.
The trip inspired now-Appalachian alumni Laura B. Caplins and Ian M. Snider to work through Nature-Link Institute to continue to take students to India.
Snider, a graduate of the geography department, a master’s candidate and co-founder of Nature-Link Institute, is currently preparing to run a third trip to India during June 2007 with Caplins.
They will take 10 students with them and there will be two trips, Snider and Caplins said.
Caplins has already returned to the same region in India a second time to research the role of women in the promotion of eco-tourism in the NDBR region.
On the first trip, Caplins said students will follow the transhumance, or semi-nomadic lives, of the Bhotiya, the mountain people living in the NDBR and surrounding area.
Students will see the Bhotiya travel from their winter homes to the summer grazing grounds with their flock of goats and sheep.
This trip costs $2,200 and covers everything but airfare.
The second trip will consist of mountain treks, living within the villages in the foothills of the Nanda Devi Mountains and field courses in mountain geography.
This trip costs $2,400 and covers everything but airfare.
During these trips, Snider will conduct e-conferences supported by Mountain Forum, an online community dedicated to mountain peoples.
Snider said his main objective with these trips is to educate mountain people of the NDBR region about sustainable and equitable tourism.
“These people need to find a way to embrace the people that come to their land and make money from it,” Snider said.
Snider emphasized that because so many people are traveling to the Himalayas, the native mountain people need to be educated on how to handle the tourism demands and not become slaves to big city tour companies.
Snider said when he returns to the region this summer, he will document the native shepherds’ dying way of life and video tape his journey, post blogs on the Internet using a lap top computer, and hold e-conferences with people who are interested in transhumance.
Snider said the majority of the money earned by these trips will be distributed among the villages to promote the equitable tourism for this region.
“[We want students] to experience the world, reorient people in nature, make them think about the things they do everyday, rethink the world…reassess their connection with nature,” Caplins said.
Both trips have several openings available, for more information visit www.nature-link.org.
– by MALLORI MORRIS
Intern News Reporter
Tuesday, 05 December 2006