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If you’re planning a solo trip to Ladakh, the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company is for you. Run by women and for women, it is exactly what you need!
Trekking and similar outdoor activities have always been associated as a male dominated activity. And when Thinlas Chorol was looking for jobs as a guide, she was rejected by two travel agencies simply because she was a woman. She did a basic course in mountaineering and similar courses to understand more about the outdoors. Soon, she was hired by several other travel agencies as a guide. Today, she is considered one of the first professionally trained female guides in Ladakh.
By 2009, she knew she wanted to have her own company and thus, Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (LWTC) was born. Today, it is the first female owned and operated trekking company in Ladakh.
Unlike other travel agencies that partner with commercial establishments, LWTC aims to encourage the women of Ladakh to become self-reliant. LWTC primarily hires women who are 10th and 12th class dropouts. These women are hired simply because their lack of formal education does not provide them with any other job prospects. They are hired as porters and taught basic English and first aid skills. Further, they are also given cultural knowledge, knowledge of the local flora and fauna to help them during the treks.
While LWTC has no tie-ups with local hotels or similar options, they do have a unique concept of home-stays. A home-stay is when a local opens up their home to the travellers. This works in two ways. One- the trekkers get a real life experience of living in a Ladakhi home. Secondly, it also helps in increasing the family’s income- because mostly the man of the house is away, working in a different place.
Additionally, home-stays are also an eco-friendly way of trekking as it doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the quick diminishing resources of the mountains. The government in such places is also one that takes care to ensure that the resources are well taken care of. One such initiative by the government would be the plastic ban. This ban helps maintain the fragile landscape of the area.
For the LWTC, eco-tourism is an important part of their venture. “We teach our guides about the principle of ‘Leave NO Trace.’ Most of the trekking routes are along the villages so we use homestay instead of camping. This reduces the need for carrying packaged food, which can create more waste,” said Rigzen, the office manager of LWTC.
LWTC is a female run organisation and hence the number of female trekkers joining them is increasing. Ladakhi people are very welcoming, especially the villagers.
“Most of the Ladakhi women are surprised when they see a solo woman traveler. They often tell her how brave she is because most of the time local women travel either with their family or with friends,” added Rigzen. On the other hand, the trekkers, are humbled seeing the villagers who are simple, honest, and kind hearted. The unique culture, including the clothes and ornaments, mesmerises the trekkers.
“The guides and the porters are well trained. Some treks use the same home-stays and in some village, they have rotation system. But all of our guides often go on same routes so they know the homestay owner very well.
“That is why it is easy to make our clients comfortable with the host family. They help in cooking dinner especially. They love to involve trekkers while making local food,” said Rigzen when asked how the awkwardness between trekkers and the locals is dealt with.
More than the awkwardness, the bigger challenge they face is the weather. There are days when it rains during the peak season making river crossing very difficult. The river volume increases rapidly.
Owing to the altitude and the weather, clients fall sick in the middle of the trek. It is thus advised to take a breather the very day one reaches Ladakh. This break will help them get accustomed to the high altitude and low pressure. It is also recommended to start with small treks and gradually increase the difficulty level.
Trekking is a season based activity. In the off seasons, numerous other activities are organised. Snow Leopard trek, tours of monasteries, and Ladakhi Losar are few activities.
“There are some easy treks which is possible to do in winters but so far we are receiving very few enquiries about it,” concluded Rigzen.
Till date the LWTC has trained more than 70 women to be professional guides and porters. While a number of them are working with other travel companies, LWTC currently has 20 girls working as guides, porters and on their office staff.
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