Lata is an address of protest and conflict. It was the village in the higher alpine pasture areas of Chamoli, Uttaranchal, where the first sparks of the Chipko movement were fired. It's the home of the bhutiyas, who lost their right to shepherding, to trade and to trek through the mountains that were declared part of a national park. Now the people are striking back. They want to take hold of the tourism potential in the region and be more than mere porters. A group of them have launched a tourism company that shall ensure homestead tourism, revenue to villages and zilch to brokers. You can book yourself on the experiment and the expeditions that the villagers of Lata want to start at mountainsheperds.com. You can read more about them at nandadevi.org.
The mountainshepherd website is the portal through which they want to run the eco-tourism business. The sister site of nandadevi is used to discuss and share other issues of the region. The site in itself is not creatively done. But do not be taken in by the simplicity of the websites. The group's plans seem quite innovative.
They want single women travellers to help them design their treks and tours for other single women. They are offering the first group of eight women all the help to come and design the treks and tours.
Visitors get to stay in the summer homes of the bhutiyas and enjoy bicycle treks and high altitude mountaineering along with bhutiyas of Lata and nearby villages trained by the National Institute of Mountaineering in Uttaranchal.
They want to network with universities to begin study courses in the mountains. The first one has already been successfully concluded with the Appalachian State Univesrity, North Carolina, us.
The website officially launches on March 8, though the preparations have been on for the last two years now. Several hitches overcome, the biggest challenge for the website shall be to develop credibility among tourists and other people to avoid paying the touts and brokers in Delhi and instead plug for real ecotourism. The challenge for the group shall be to ensure that the experience and revenue is shared equally. Log on and ride the ranges.
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