Trek Talk - ElderTreks Blog


The World Economic Forum report on global tourism has an interesting map showing each country in the world’s attitude towards foreign visitors.  Countries are colored based on how favorable they are (blue) or how unfavorable they are (red).  What makes the map so interesting is that some of the countries that you would expect to be favorable (hence blue) are actually red and those you would expect to be red (unfavorable) are blue.

If you have not seen the map (see below) ask yourself which countries you would expect to be in the blue color and which would be in the red?  You might be amazed at the findings: parts of West Africa and even Yemen are in the most welcoming category, while parts of Europe are in the least welcoming?  Having traveled extensively I can positively affirm that Iran is one of the most friendly countries to foreigners that I have ever visited.  I started going over 12 years ago and this has not changed, despite that country’s standing vs. the rest of the world.  Surprisingly for me Iran is in red on the map.  Pakistan is another country that I found to offer a warm welcome everywhere that I went.  It is also in the red category, although perhaps that change has to do with their turbulent history during the last 15 – 20 years.  I was last in Pakistan in 1987 when things were a lot calmer.  Saudi Arabia and Russia are also in red but I can understand that based on their history and culture and the fact that these countries are or have been closed off to foreigners for so long.  But Ecuador or Denmark?  How to explain that?  The Washington Post author of the article suggests that a strong dose of nationalism may have something to do with it but even he finds that theory falters upon deeper investigation.

This article has made me question which countries I have found to be the friendliest and why?  Does economy have anything to do with it?  I don’t think so as Iran and Pakistan are relatively poor countries yet the locals were very warm and friendly to visitors.  Indonesia was another country I found welcoming to foreign travelers.  Bolivia was found to be “anti- foreigner” and this matched my personal experience (It was the only place I have ever been where I thwarted a brazen day-time theft of my belongings).  But could it be that a country's attitude to foreigners might fluctuate like their economy or even the weather?  I have always said I would visit any country twice, as sometimes you can go somewhere and everything just goes wrong.  Return a second time and all goes well.  Which trip do you base your judgment on?  Who knows, perhaps the surveys hit some countries at a low time and the replies were not that favorable as they might be later on?

I find that my attitude to those I meet on my travels has the strongest effect on the reception I get.   Go in happy, courteous and generally interested in their lifestyle, culture and country and I find you will tend to get the best response back – i.e. a welcoming reception.




David Roth - March 22, 2013

For 18 years Mr. Prakash Dhami owned an electronics repair shop in the small Himalayan town of Chamba, located in Himachal Pradesh which is in Northern India.  As times changed so too did his small electronics shop as business begin to fade away.  As a father and a husband Mr. Dhami had to think of something else to support his family.  Reflecting upon his childhood spent growing up in a small village Mr. Dhami recalled his love and passion for nature and ecology and especially his fond memories of trekking through the Himalayan Mountains.  He thought how wonderful it would be to return to his roots and to share his passion with his family.  It was a stage in his life that he would refer to as “going back to nature”.

In 1990 Mr. Dhami decided to leave the town of Chamba and move with his family into the foot hills of the mountains to start his homestay. He was the first homestay to be registered in Himachal Pradesh. He owned a plot of land and built a 2-room hut surrounded by fruit trees and vegetables that he had also planted. This small hut became the principle residence of his family of four as well as a mountain retreat for anyone else who wanted to come and experience the wonders of the Himalayas.

Unfortunately “going back to nature” had its limitations.  Nearing the point of total poverty Mr. Dhami, a once-prosperous business man soon found himself struggling to exist.  It was at this time that he decided to throw all his remaining energy into what he loved the most – the mountains of his youth.  He began his own trekking company and started guiding treks into the snow-capped mountains of the Western Himalayas of India. As business slowly grew he trained his daughter, Tanu, to become the first and only female trekking guide in the region while his oldest son Nitin became a porter for those adventure trekkers that wanted a harder challenge. And this is where Mr. Dhami’s life began to take a turn for the better.

In 1992 he registered his trekking company, Mani Mahesh Travels with the Department of Tourism to cater to the various needs of travellers.  Not content with his trekking company Mr. Dhami took his two room hut and greatly expanded it to create a beautiful,  eco-friendly organic farm / home stay that now has sufficient accommodation, a spring water pool and the peacefulness of the mountains of the Western Himalaya that will capture you in a way you would not think possible in India. He has not only opened up his own home and family to visitors but he has also kept true to his heritage with how he built this home in the traditional mountain style using stone, clay and wood. The rooms are simple and clean and the views from the verandas are sublime. Guests can now soak them selves in the spring water pool after a muscle-soothing massage, laze in a hammock, relish the mouth watering home-cooked local dishes, or simply grab a good book from the growing library and enjoy the hours in the tranquil surroundings.

A few years ago ElderTreks made a small but not insignificant change to our Northern India program.  We added a 3 night home stay at the Himalayan Orchard Hut – the site of Mr. Dhami’s original 2-room hut.  Perched mid-way up a terraced slope at 4347 feet (1325m) above sea level and overlooking the Panj-La Valley, it offers a bird's eye view of the mighty Saal River in the valley below and is the perfect base to explore the Western Himalaya through the daily treks that are offered or to just relax and rejuvenate as Mr. Dhami originally intended.

If you want to experience true Himalayan village life then you must visit the Dhami family and learn how they live on the side of a mountain year round. You will be moved in many ways.

For more photos of the Himalayan Orchard Hut visit us on Pinterest -


David Roth - March 14, 2013

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