Fair Trails® Explorer Tour: Review I

10. May. 2022

With the guardians of the Himalayas and on the tracks of the snow leopard. A review from our Explorer Crem on the Local Life Trail and Snow Leopard Trail.

Die Fair Trails® Crew at the Thorong La on stunning 5.420 m © Fair Trails®

Fair Trails® stands for a new way of traveling! Für eine Partnerschaft auf Augenhöhe von Reisenden und Bereisten. With the common inspiration to learn from each other, to support each other and to trigger a change for the better. In the travel destinations as in the home of the travelers. 

With this intention started our first Fair Trails® Explorer Tours 2022. Here is the travelogue of our Trail Angels Günter and at the same time expedition leader of the Explorer Tour at the Local Life Trail and Snow Leopard Trail.

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In the land of contrasts: from the subtropical jungle of Chitwan National Park… © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

… into the heart of the Annapurna Himal with its ice-armored mountain giants towering up to 8,091m high © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

The risk of this Explorer Tour was known to us beforehand: Packing two Fair Trails® into the program of a single trip will pose major challenges in terms of logistics as well as the physical and mental resilience of our Explorer Team. How that worked out then, you can read here.

Nepal is unique in many ways. So is its scenic and cultural diversity: because in no other country in the world you get on barely 100km as the crow flies from the subtropical, steaming jungle with tigers, tank rhinos and crocodiles up into the world of storm-tossed, ice-armored eight-thousanders of the Himalayas. And it is precisely this almost unbelievable scenic tension that this Fair Trails® Explorer Tour has followed. The first part of the trip was dedicated to the “Guardians of the Himalayas”. Along the Local Life Trail we visited three particularly interesting, of the more than 100 different ethnic groups of Nepal. Namely in the densely forested Mahabharat Mountains and the subtropical lowlands of Nepal, the Terai. Then, with the help of Nepal’s hair-raising “roads” and the drivers of our Mahindra jeeps, true experts in their field, we made a dramatic change of scenery: We headed right into the bizarre glacier world of the Annapurna Himal, where we followed in the footsteps of the “spirit of the mountains,” the snow leopard, on the Snow Leopard Trail. And as a final highlight, an unforgettable trekking experience awaited us with the crossing of the famous mountain pass Thorong La – a remarkable 5,420m high and the key point on the legendary Annapurna Circuit.

On the Local Life Trail: We will return! Farewell to the Gurung community of Uppardanghadi in the Mahabharat Mountains © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

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At the Snow Leopard Trail: On the tracks of the “Spirit of the Mountains” – Snow Leopard expert Tashi Ghale shows us one of the camera traps © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

Fair Trails® Explorer Tour: A crew with passion
A truly packed, but therefore eventful program, which could only be mastered with a team that was as eager to discover as it was resilient and tolerant.

+ Marie Luise & Sandra Schnurpfeil; the “Sister Act” gladly contributed innovative ideas and took care of the group’s health well-being thanks to a well-stocked first-aid kit.
+ Angela Gruber; a tireless “mountain chamois”, who will surely soon be standing on even higher summits.
+ Thomas Sattler; our cultural photographer with special empathy
+ Herbert Wölger; our animal photographer with an eye for the extraordinary
+ Roger Zimmermann; the always good-humored and helpful “Swiss Guard
+ Johannes Terler; from the Fair Trails® partner Pilum, was responsible for the social media live coverage with a lot of empathy
+ David Osebik; from Fair Trails® partner Pilum, always asked the critical & right questions
+ And myself, Günter Mussnig; from Fair Trails® partner Trail Angels; Nepal veteran & expedition leader with the realization of still knowing too little about Nepal.

Reinforcing the Fair Trails® Explorer was an outstanding team of Nepalese experts who made this extraordinary journey possible and with whose help we were able to delve into the great myths and challenges of Nepal:

+ Mingma Sherpa; our ever helpful and humorous Sirdar and with six tours now under his belt, Nepal’s most experienced Fair Trails® Guide!
+ Gabish Joshi; our impact expert from Fair Trails® partner Ennovent Nepal never let us get in a bad mood with his friendly nature.
+ Robic Upadhaya; our creative and innovative cameraman, who has certainly not been on assignment for Fair Trails® for the last time.
+ Prashanta Khanal; our Local Life Trail expert. Restaurant owner, book author, climate activist, and never-ending fountain of knowledge about the ethnicities and food of Nepal.
+ Tashi R. Ghale; our expert for the Snow Leopard Trail. Awarded many times by National Geographic, Disney, etc., he has dedicated his life to the Snow Leopard

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Fair Trails® Explorer with passion: (l.t.r.): Roger Zimmermann; Marie Luise Schnurpfeil; Angela Gruber; Tashi Ghale; David Osebik; Herbert Wölger; hockend (v.l.n.r.): Robic Upadhaya; Johannes Terler; Gabish Joshi; Günter Mussnig; Sandra Schnurpfeil; Mingma Sherpa; behind the camera: Thomas Sattler © Fair Trails®/Sattler

Fair Trails® Explorer Tour: Combining work with experience
In the preparation meetings it was clearly communicated: A Fair Trails® Explorer Tour always means a lot of work, with the “reward” of becoming part of a project, being able to actively shape it, and gaining more profound insights than would ever be possible with other travel formats. Our joint tasks were therefore diverse and challenging:

+ Experience Design: The evaluation of the experience modules at the Local Life Trail and the Snow Leopard Trail and suggestions on how they can be improved.
+ Impact Design: The evaluation of the impact projects at the Local Life Trail and the Snow Leopard Trail and suggestions on how to improve them.
+ Live Coverage Social Media: Ongoing coverage during the Fair Trails® Explorer Tour to provide followers with the most realistic impression possible.
+ Photo production: building a professional imagery base for future program promotion.
+ Film production: producing professional short films and social media clips for each Fair Trail.
+ Fair Trails® further development: incorporating the results and feedback from the Explorer Tours into the future development of Fair Trails®.

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Fair Trails® Mediaproduction: Our cameraman Robic Upadhaya (assisted by Mingma Sherpa) interviews a proud student of our project school in Manang. She is participating in the “Snow Leopard Scout Program” led by Tashi Ghale, which promotes understanding of conservation and the protection of the snow leopard. This project is supported by Fair Trails © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

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Fair Trails® Impact Project Fund. Clean drinking water is one of the keys to avoiding infectious diseases in subtropical Nepal. Our Impact Expert Gabish Joshi from Ennovent Nepal presents an easy-to-use water filter from Smart Paani® to a Chepang woman. The Chepang, the “people of the forest” are a fascinating but unfortunately still marginalized ethnic group in the Mahabharat Mountains. This project is supported by Fair Trails © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

Fair Trails® Explorer Tour: Review and outlook
About the feedback of our Fair Trails® Explorer we do not want to reveal too much at this point! What and how they experienced this trip is of course worth its own special blog post. However, if you are now curious and can imagine taking part in an Explorer Tour yourself, we would like to recommend the newly advertised Fair Trails® Explorer Tours. Or you sign up for our Fair Trails® newsletter to be kept up to date at all times. In any case, we would be happy to gain new allies for more sustainable and fair travel!

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On the Local Life Trail: Cooking with the Tharu! The Tharu are the ethnic group of the lowlands and jungle. They are resistant to malaria and therefore specialized in this habitat. They live from fishing, rice cultivation and duck breeding © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

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A tank rhinoceros says hello! Tank rhinoceroses were threatened with extinction and since they are strictly protected, their population in Nepal has grown again to 800 animals. A great success for the protection of species! The fact that they come so close in Chitwan National Park is rather unusual, but could not scare social media guru Johannes Terler © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

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On the tracks of the snow leopard. With Tashi Ghale we followed this mystical creature on adventurous trails through a bizarre erosion landscape. Although we never got to see the wild cat, its presence was omnipresent noticeable © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

The magic of trekking: The Annapurna peaks – left Annapurna II (7.937m) and right Annapurna I (8.091m) glow in the first rays of the sun during the ascent to Thorung la (5.420m) © Fair Trails®/Mussnig

Final acknowledgement
Fair Trails® Explorer tours are always a team effort, so we want to take this opportunity to say thank you again to everyone who has been actively and positively involved:

+ To Nawang Tshering Sherpa of Himalaya Sherpa Nepal for the great organization of the tour on site; with Mingma Sherpa as a fantastic Sirdar and a really great team of assistant Sherpas and porters.
+ To Raj Gyawali of Social Tours for coordinating the media production and the unforgettable program at the Kathmandu Food Trail.
+ To our Nepal experts (see above) on this Fair Trails® Explorer Tour
+ To our intrepid drivers on the world’s most hair-raising roads.
+ To the village communities of Uppardanghadi and Meghauli (especially: Manesh Limbu!) for their hospitality
+ To Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge with its so knowledgeable rangers
+ To Billi Bierling for the exciting insight into the world of mountaineering in the Himalayas
+ To the team of the Trail Angels Info & Booking Center for the travel organization
+ And to our Fair Trails® partners for sharing this untrodden path with us

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Fair Trails® stands for a new way of traveling! For a partnership at eye level between travelers and travellers. With the common inspiration to learn from each other, to support each other and thus to trigger a change for the better. In the travel destinations as well as in the home country of the travelers. Fair Trails Explorer Günter Mussnig celebrates the reunion with snow leopard expert Tashi R. Ghale after Covid conditioned three long years. Tashi Ghale at the recent farewell: “Don’t say Good Bye! Better say see you soon” ©Fair Trails®.

Author

Günter Mussnig

The graduate geographer is one of the founders and managing directors of Trail Angels, which is responsible for the Bookyourtrail.com web platform. As a trekking & outdoor enthusiast, he is one of the fathers of the Alpe-Adria Trail and has been exploring the Nepalese Himalayas for more than 25 years.

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