7 days, Jan 2010
The setup you currently have is a very good one. The SocialTours staff does a great job at trying to make the whole Nepal Experience a unique one. I really enjoyed my time here and will definitely pass along your contact information to anyone that I know who'll be travelling to Nepal. Thanks for everything.
While I was trekking there was a considerable amount of trash on the ground. Having been provided with a guide and a porter I asked the guide if it was okay to have the porter help me pick up the trash. The guide also joined in and during two days of trash collecting we probably picked up 30-40 grocery shopping-sized bags of trash. This is was a huge problem in the Annapourna region. My guide and porter were great and I made sure to reward them with a nice tip at the end of the trip. It was obvious that some villages had a better handle on the litter problem than others and that got me thinking about how SocialTours could entice villages to be more stewards of the environment by sponsoring "The Cleanest Village Award." I'm not sure how this would work or how the decision would be made as to which village would receive the award. The award would probably need to be both symbolic - in the form of a trophy or something similar - as well as a cash award of some predetermined amount. I would be willing to sponsor the first couple of financial awards to get this up and running...after that it would need to be part of a donation system where future clients would have the option of donating a few extra dollars to the cause. I get pretty excited at the idea of hiking along the Annapourna region in a few years time and seeing a sign at the entrance to a village that reads: "SocialTours Cleanest Village Award of 2011".
I also would like to add a special thanks to my guide, Jangbu, who was willing to explore areas that he'd never been before. I'm kind of an "off the beaten path" type of hiker and after 4 days of staying on the major trekking route we decided to try some minor routes. This was by far the most fun of the trek because I was going where my guide had to find his way with me. While on a minor trekking route we met some pretty amazing villagers that were not so accostomed to seeing tourists. We even found a way to walk all the way back to Poukhara instead of taking a taxi back. This is where we came across a school that probably hadn't seen a tourist in 4-5 years and ate dinner in someone's home instead of a tea house. These moments were icing on the cake and meant more to me than seeing some of the tallest mountains in the world.