Thursday, August 29, 2013

India: Preparation is a Key for Trekkers in North India, 30 Foreigners Disappear Over 20 Years

According to India Today, the search is on for the whereabouts of two French backpackers who were reported missing from Dhauladhar range on August 23, 2013. 

Police search parties and the members of the trekking team failed to locate the trekkers on Tuesday (August 27).  

Balbir Thakur, superintendent of police in Kangra said that a group of 32 foreign trekkers, including the two missing French trekkers had left Dharamshala for trekking on August 19. The trekking expedition was organized by Field Service Intercultural Learning, an NGO.

Reportedly, on August 21, two Frenchmen, ages 20 and 21, did not return. According to their fellow trekkers they had decided to move towards the snowline. 

COMMENT: Although police are searching for the two young men, more than two dozen tourists have been murdered or vanished without trace in the Dharamshala and Manali valleys in recent years.

Two kinds of foreigners descend on Kullu and Manli Valley every year: tourists who want to enjoy a trek across its beautiful landscape; and relatives searching for those who never return.

At least 30 foreign tourists have gone missing in the Manali and Dharamshala during the last two decades.

Australian Daniel Mount Whitten, 23, and Japanese Kajuya Uaeno, 32, were reported missing on the same day, August 2, 2005, in Manali and Mandi.  They were never found.

Unfortunately, frequent disappearances of foreigners have given the tourist hot-spots of Dharamshala, Kullu and Manali a very bad reputation. 

LONELY PLANET, which publishes popular tourist guides, has dubbed Parvati Valley, where at least six foreign tourists have gone missing, the "valley of death."

Security agencies fear that most of these tourists were robbed and killed. While one foreigner was beaten to death at Hampta pass four years ago, another was stoned to death in Tunda Bhoj.

Solo hikers often carry precious watches, cameras and money and are attacked by local people. They are either buried in the forests or thrown into rivers with stones tied to their bodies. Some are also killed by landslides.

The towns of Kullu and Kangra district are dotted with posters pasted by worried relatives, announcing cash awards for information leading to the missing hikers' rescue.

The list of missing tourists includes three Australians, two Americans, two Israelis, a Briton, a Russian, an Italian, a Yugoslavian, two Swiss hikers, two Dutch tourists and one from Ireland, besides the two French trekker lost last week.

An NDTV producer Ravi Nibhanpudi, 27, who was reported missing from Dharamshala on November 24, 2012, was found dead in a gorge after three months. 

Such a high disappearance rate over a period of only 20 years is very unsettling for trekkers, their families, the police and the reputation of the area. 

Yet, many of the disappearances are a direct result of solo trekkers who are over-confident about their skill level and the false belief that they will not be victimized, robbed, raped or killed.

There are safety in numbers, no doubt about it.  Do be cautious and plan for the worst.

We will update our readers on updated information concerning the welfare of the two French trekkers who disappeared last week.