Robin Boustead has traversed, mapped out and campaigned hard to promote the Great Himalaya Trail.
I first met Robin Boustead for lunch on a sunny, winter afternoon at Chez Caroline at Babar Mahal Revisited. Serious at first, Robin opened up soon, regaling us with colorful stories from his many adventures in the Nepali Himalayas. During that lunch and for much after, his conversations remained focused on a passion that he has put enormous time, money and effort into - trekking in the Himalayas.
Born in the UK, based in Sydney but now living in Kathmandu, Robin first trekked in Nepal in 1993. The idea of a larger than life trail that encompasses the entire Himalayan range of the area came to him much later though, in 2002 when new trekking areas opened. He immediately realized that much of the trekking trails he was doing were already connected. The basic idea for developing a Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) that connected the Himalayas in the region and looked at the immense potential it had in terms of tourism, employment and being a multi-activity trail was born.
Over his many treks, Robin completed a full traverse over two seasons, once in the monsoon of 2008 and then in the pre-monsoon of 2009. Losing twenty percent of his body weight on these mammoth undertakings, he would realize later that promoting what he had seen and mapped, would be a much harder task.
The Nepal section, which comprises an epic 157-day trek that takes trekkers from as high as 6200m to as low as 870m is mapped and open for tourism. This portion of the GHT is a trail network where people can opt for the high or the low route. The interesting part is that of the 7800km of trail, only 1000km overlaps with main trekking routes. The rest are paths that locals use for their own purposes.
What is special about Robin and his plans for the GHT is that he and it are able to see a much larger picture, one that sees the locals in control of the development of tourism in their areas. This is essential not only because it increases employment opportunities but also because it gives the locals a sense of ownership. Local participation also means that each section of the Nepal portion will be unique in terms of ethnic diversity and all that this will entail. The locals like this ideas, demonstrated by the fact that he was welcomed heartily in the remotest corners of the country, some of which had never seen a tourist before.
The promotion of the GHT is also a platform that should bring attention to the effects of global warming to what many people call ‘the Third Pole’ of the world and which is the source of water for 850 million people. Writing books and many an article to promote the various aspects of the GHT, Robin hopes foreigners and locals will venture out and re-discover the great Himalayan country that is Nepal.