By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
Many differently abled people are confined to their wheelchairs. Some would drag their weight as far as they can on crunches. Physical movement is drastically restricted for differently abled people. Disabilities of one form or other leave them in frustration and hopelessness. Right…wrong!
Now these words should be changed because differently abled people can also enjoy life to the fullest. They can trek along the craggy hills and enjoy nature’s beauty and this has become possible in Pokhara, Nepal.
For the first time in Asia, a trail has been developed for the differently abled people in Pokhara. A 3 km long trail has been constructed by the local people of Annapurna Rural Municipality-1. The other day a programme was held where Rabindra Adhikari, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, inaugurated the trail.
Bishnu Hari Sharma is the man behind the idea of beginning a trail for differently abled people. He is the president of New Trekking Trail Construction and Conservation Committee (NTTCCC). This committee had taken early initiation to develop the differently abled friendly trail, which now believed to be the first of its kind in Asia.
Remembering the early struggle, Bishnu Hari Sharma, the president of NTTCCC, said: “The idea of constructing 3km long differently abled friendly trail came very late. However, I think it is more important to understand how the construction of the trail itself became a reality.
“In the past I was teaching at a school in Lumle where I would see many tourists from different countries visiting to Annapurna base camp. I noticed that all of them preferred walking to taking vehicles. About that time, an idea flashed in my mind and I decided to work for tourism development in my village, Kaski Kot, than working as a teacher at a school.
“I talked with the local people of my village about the construction of a trekking route covering six village development committees. My original plan was to begin a trek from Jarebar, Sarangkot, Kaski Kot, Dhikur Pokharai, Bhadaure Tamangi, Panchase, World Peace Pagoda and to end the trek at Devi’s fall.
However, I failed miserably to garner much support on my favour. I still did not lose my heart because Ganesh Gurung, Durga Prasad Timilsina, Til Bahadur Nepali, Ram Prasad Timilsina, Shiva Prasad Timilsina, Tika Ram Chapain and Narayan Prasad Subedi did decide to join me. In fact, I had expected more people would join me, but that did not happen. However, we started a mammoth task of constructing 74km long foot trail, covering 6 village development committees.
“To continue the work we regularly used our own money, because we did not have any financial support at that time. After looking at our dedication and commitment to the work, slowly more people joined us and the work began in full swing. We formed New Trekking Trail Construction and Conservation Committee (NTTCCC).
“Our committee talked with the 6 Village Development Committees and convinced them to work together to connect all 6 VDCs by a single trek that we named New Trekking Trail. It is 74km long trail where tourists have already started trekking, but the trail construction and development work have not been over yet”.
DIFFERENTLY ABLED FRIENDLY TRAIL
The actual trail meant for the differently abled trekkers has been constructed from Himalayan Deurali Resort to Kaski Kot Deurali. The length of the trail is 3km. However, on the day of inauguration, some differently abled trekkers in wheelchairs were taken from Bhumekothan to Himalayan Deurali Resort.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari had inaugurated the 3km section of the trail. During the inaugural programme, the minister had pledged to provide necessary assistance to complete the construction task in near future.
Speaking with this reporter, Bishnu Hari Sharma, the president of New Trekking Trail Construction and Conservation Committee (NTTCCC), said: “In fact the entire trail is 74km long and that passes through six village development committees, but we have developed 3km trail off 74km for differently abled trekkers. The preliminary task has already been over. Temporarily the trek is ready but it is far from over. We want to pitch the ground with tiles and flat stone quarry. The entire 3km trail will be fenced with iron bar and washrooms will also be built along the trail”.
When this scribe reached the starting point of the trail, there was more work left to be done. Bishnu Hari Sharma, the president himself agreed and said: “We have just used dozer and leveled the road. We prepared 3km trail rather haphazardly. Bamboo sticks are used as fences but they will be replaced by iron bar. The rainwater will certainly make the trail impossible to roll the wheelchairs any more. That’s why we will use special tiles and stone quarry along the 3km trail”.
Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Nepal Tourism Office Pokhara (NTOP) and District Development Committee Kaski have been regularly providing financial assistance to the NTTCCC.
“In the beginning we had extremely hard time; local people were not ready to allow their lands to be used for the trail construction. Some unscrupulous people even lodged a case against us in the District Court Kaski. You can understand how difficult it is to convince the people of six village development committees.
“The biggest obstacle on the path of the construction of the trail was finance. Our entire activities would come to screeching halt due to shortage of money. About that time, Nepal Tourism Development, Nepal Tourism Office Pokhara and District Development Office come to rescue the NTTCCC.
FUTURE DEVELOPMENT IN THE AREA
New Trekking Trail extended across 6 VDCs covering about 74km distance and now 3km long differently abled friendly trail are in the first phase of development. However, NTTCCC has even more ambitious projects to accomplish in days to come.
“We want to promote Home Stay in six VDCs where tourists can eat organic foods of high quality. For this purpose, we will invite experts and arrange training facilities for the selected groups of the villagers. In some places, Home Stay groups have already been in operation. For instance, Bhadaure Community Home stay and Kaski Kot Community Home Stay are doing well. We will provide them training to make them more professional in the business of Home Stay.
“We are also contemplating to build an Alpine Coaster at Kaski Kot. The visitors can ride Alpine coaster and roll down through the slopes of the Kaski Kot. There are many places where rock climbing is also possible. Moreover, local helicopter companies have also contacted us to make helipads on the peaks of Kaski Kot hills. Those helicopters want to bring tourists to the peaks where they will spend some time and go back to Pokhara. This activity will definitely benefit the local people.
“I have been approached by ATB Bike adventure companies. They want to introduce big size ATB Bike, but we have not taken it seriously. The reason is ATB Bike makes lots of noise and that is not good for the local birds and other wild animals. In the meantime, one company wants to introduce sky diving. This could be entirely a new adventure sport in Nepal. We are very positive to introduce sky diving over the sky of Kaski Kot”.
It seems that the construction of a differently abled friendly trail is a tip of an iceberg; the real plan is much more significant. The entire area of Kaski Kot and six other village development committees have been included in the master plan of village tourism development.
Village Tourism should be the new concept to sell Nepal globally. Truth has it that tourists come to Nepal to see rural Nepal and their culture and tradition as such. At the same time, people like Bishnu Hari Sharma must be appreciated for his exemplary work.
His hard work and perseverance have successfully drawn the attention of the world by constructing differently abled friendly trail. “This is just a humble beginning, we are committed to take village tourism to a new height” said Bishnu Hari Sharma triumphantly.
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