Himalayan climber struggling to survive amidst corona virus pandemic

Since the outbreak of corona virus early this year, tourism industry was a hardest hit in the himalayan nation just at the begining of spring season.  Thousands of persons like Maule Tamang and their mountain jobs is at risk who heavily relies on tourism industry.

45-year-old, Maule Tamang is a climbing and trekking guide in the Himalayan country. He held from remote Pakhepa village in the Solukhumbu district. He is working in the tourism field since 1996. He started his job as a porter in his early 20's and later upgraded to cook and veteran climbing and trekking guide.

'I started my career as a porter, where I carried 50-60 kg of load during Dhaulagiri trek with Austrian group of trekkers in my first trip,' he recollects his 24 years back life. He remembered carrying huge weight of load bigger than himself walking several hours in the mountains. Every day he carried and walked around 12 hours to reach another camp. His wage was Rs 125 (apx $1.25) per day excluding daily food allowance. He completed the trek with a single pair of clothing. It was about two- week long trek and made total earning of Rs 1500 (apx 15$) on the whole trek.

'I felt in love with trekking life, then immersed myself in the the field. I never looked back and completely devoted my life in trekking field for 24 years,' he says.

During off-season and when not going to the trek, he worked in a small teashop for 6 years. 'I used to work in a small teashop to support my livelihood back in Kathmandu for several years,' he remembered. It covers up his living and food expenses in the city. After 3 years working as a porter he was upgraded to cook where he worked for nearly 6 years.

He started working in camping trek as a cook and goes to Manang, Mustang, Dhaulagiri, Mera peak and several other Himalayan destinations in Nepal. Having gained years of experience in the Himalayas, he became high climbing porter and gradually became climbing guide guiding expedition peaks above 6,000 m high.

As a climbing guide, he has submitted Island peak (6,189m) for 48 times, Mera peak (6,476 m) for eight times, and Labuche peak (6,119 m) for 3 times. He climbed Dhaulagiri (8,176m) world's seventh highest mountain in 1996 with an Austrian expedition group. In later year in 1997, he made a trip to Sishapangma (8,013 m) 14th highest mountain in the world that lies in Tibet an autonomous region of China. However, he failed to reach the world tallest Mt. Everest (8,848m) due to his American clients felt sick, where he could only made up to 7,200 m in 1998. He is working as a climbing and trekking guide for 16 years now.

Uncertain future continues due to Corona virus pandemic hit Himalayas

Life was going well with Tamang until corona pandemic hit worldwide. Since his involvement in tourism field, he has faced decade-long Maoist insurgency (1996-2006). The decade long conflict in the Himalayan country did not affect his job and life. Later, major earthquake in 2015 has shooked Himalayan nation, which affected trekking in spring season only. 'I had gone through those ten years conflict and 2015 earthquake turmoil. It didn't make so much impact in my job,' he says,' tourism has recovered soon and picked up in the autumn season.'

Spring season (march-may) is considers as high tourist season for trekking and climbing peaks in Nepal. As tourism industry was ready to welcome tourists pandemic outbreak has closed its door. The dream of thousands of trekking and climber guides like Tamang was shattered. 

Corona virus hitting worldwide has left impact in the tourism field including all other business activities in Nepal too. It has been more than 3 months since lockdown imposed by government in an effort to stop further spreading of virus and it is infection since March 24. The announcement of lockdown resulted in the shutting down of transportation, shops, cinema halls, cultural centers, stadium, sports grounds, health clubs, museums, swimming pools and all other human activities, in the wake of coronavirus outbreak until April 30 in the first phase. Discouragement in people's free movement and travel restriction worldwide has completely halted economic activities.

As the lockdown prolonged and its successive extensions, poor Tamang started looking for an alternative job where he got a job in seed farming company.  As the lockdown continues and trekking industry is in dilemma, ' I can't just keep on waiting for the tourism to be opened, so look for an alternative job to earn few hundred rupees, ' he said. He got a temporary job in nearby Seed Company to put stamp on packages and helped transportation of huge load of seeds every evening. His monthly salary is 15000 Nepalese rupees. 'This is a temporary job for one and half month only,' he says, and worried about his future.

Although, lockdown has been relaxed from June 1 a week earlier in Nepal, tourism future is still uncertain.

Maule Tamang lives in a two-room apartment with his wife, two sons, a daughter and parents at Chaumati. Living expenses in Kathmandu city is very high. It is estimated about 2000 trekking companies are operating in the country. There are thousands of workers including trekking climbing and guides, porters and cooks that depend in tourism field.

Nepal is known for trekking paradise all over the world. Over 1 million tourists visits this Himalayan nation every years. Since corona virus pandemic hit early this year, millions of people have been infected and loss their lives worldwide. Gradually, countries around the world are easing up travel restrictions and opening up other business activities. Travel industry is one of the most badly hit industry and experts foretell it would take at least 2 years to gear up travel industry.  

Since outbreak of corona virus pandemic, Nepal tourism has been badly hit resulting thousands of people's jobs in dilemma that heavily relies on tourism industry.

Tourism is the major source of revenue for Himalayan nation where trekking and climbing provides jobs to thousands of people in the Himalayas. According to NTB a national tourism organization, nearly 1.2 million tourists have visited Nepal in 2018, earning more than 700 million dollars, a much-needed foreign currency. As per the government sources over millions of jobs are generated by tourism alone in Nepal.

World Health Organization says it is impossible to predict when the pandemic will be controlled completely. Scientists and virologists around the world are working day and night for invention of the corona virus vaccine.

Until then thousands of climbing and trekking guides like Tamang are awaiting for revival of tourism in the Himalaya. They are passionately waiting with high hope and eager to resume their mountain's job.

'I wanted to go back to mountain as soon as possible, but I do not know how long the pandemic will exist on earth, ' Tamang reacted with mix emotions.

Although lockdown is easing gradually, there is no indication of tourism revival anytime soon. He remained doubtful and feels insecure about his future job as a mountain guide in the Himalayas.

Publish : 2020-06-25 18:07:59

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