Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of Treks and Rolls-Royce .

This post is a general writing. It is not related, in particular, to any of the adventures from GHAC. It is merely an observation that has taken the form of an article, an interesting one though.

Thank you, Jagan GVS, for the write-up.

So read on what jagan has to say about roll-royce and treks. You see any connection? Well, you just might.........

A trek is similar to Rolls-Royce, not that I know much about cars but something about why a Rolls-Royce should cost so much more than a Ford car. The answer is not far from your guess: It is simply because there are so many more of the Ford cars than Rolls-Royce!

Ask again, why are there so few treks? Seven out of every ten people I invited to a trek during college days had a counter proposal; to help them clean their rooms for a tidy sum of money!

After all, one must be nuts to pay so much and torture their legs and backs. If you don’t trust me try asking your neighbour to join you for a trek to a remote jungle where one needs to walk about 10-20kms and feast on sandwiches and fruits just for a day or two! I can’t blame people who don’t invite me on weekends or for coffee.

You have a right to question the idiosyncrasies of my comparison; so many people do treks after all, aren’t there so many treks too? My answer is that there are fewer treks in comparison with other affordable means of outing: tours, pleasure trips and pilgrimages.

Given that there are always going to be fewer people willing to willingly commit the blunder of volunteering for a trek, there are fewer businesses which can make great profits out of a trek. Imagine someone making a fortune by serving food in the remote foot hills and wilderness as opposed to pilgrimage centres which witness thousands of footfalls.

You might want to call my notions daft and propose to increase the number of people per trek and reduce the fixed portion of the cost. I would urge you to differentiate between ‘bringing treks to the masses’ and ‘amassing people on treks’. Here is the silver lining: more and more pilgrims are visiting Amarnath (most of them on foot) and would you need a guess as to why the ice-linga is shrinking every year? The lord of the holy wilderness seems to be seeking an escape sooner as the devotees increase year on year.

There is always going to be a cost, there are no free lunches in the universe and trekking is no exception. I can hear you swearing off, and I would be worried if you dint!

Some might press me on how the commercial trekking organisations can take more than 35 people on treks which involve camping for days. And, some more, might ask as to how does it matter at all?

a) We need to consider the Eco-foot print a very large group generates, any large becomes tough to manage in terms of the restraint and discipline needed to keep the habitat intact for the flora and fauna to continue the life in an un-interrupted sense.

b) The large number of foot falls, and the extent of habitat damage due to the occupation of land for camping, cooking, bathing and defecating.

Then how do commercial trekking organisations manage?

Let’s understand why commercial trekking clubs need so many people. They have a fixed target of getting a certain amount of X Rs to cover their profit margins. You could spread this cost on 15 people as well but the cost per person goes up. This is the issue at hand; we are NOT willing to pay what could be good environmentally. We may prefer to opt for lower MATERIAL costs, ignoring the impact that a huge gathering has on the environment.

The answer from Economics to the dwindling fisheries worldwide is simple – nobody pays anything to go fish in the oceans, so fishing happened beyond the sustainable ecological levels (whaling for instance).

Habitats are Common Resources. We are not taxed for fishing, only for profits on fishing. Similarly, we are not taxed for trekking in any manner. Only commercial trekking organisations have to pay, and I wonder how many really do.

Allow me to share as to what happened at Mallelateertham, 160kms from here. My first visit to the place was in 1999, and the canopy was so dense that the ground underneath used to be dimly lit even at noon. I used to organise treks in groups of 10 once in 3 months to the few places around Srisailam. By 2003, there were people camping in large groups for days and almost living there. They were good people who wanted to be one with nature for a while but soon, the 100 feet long mango trees, the lush canopy was all but lost. Ignorance about the impact of their actions turned good people into decimators of the habitat. The last I visited the place was in 2004 when I took Diyanat and some friends; the place seemed like the bombed out town of Guernica which now only exists in Picasso’s painting.

A trek is a matter of quality; it is not a conquest but a pilgrimage into the nature. If you loved the blossoms you would know not to sever the blooming buds. The Buddha is not the summit of the mountain but every step regardless of the summit. It is to delicately step into the nature and experience the sublime with minimal disturbance to ‘what it once was’.

In my very limited opinion organisers and members of GHAC identify and empathise with the above sentiments, by and large, if not square and even.

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