In another move towards promoting eco-tourism in Uttarakhand, the state government is now looking at developing the town of Munsiyari in Pithoragarh district and its surrounding areas as a mountain biking destination. The proposal, a brainchild of IIT-Roorkee students Michael Maria Joseph and Wrick Homchowdhury, was selected out of several submitted in course of a competition organized by the government on World Tourism Day on September 27.
State tourism department and eco-tourism wing of the forest department have already conducted feasibility studies in this regard with the help of Joseph and Homchowdhury, both of whom are seasoned mountain bikers. The duo have used the mountain biking trails in and around Nepal as their reference point.
“About ten trails varying between 3.5km to 20km in length have been identified in and around Khaliya Top – the highest point near Munsiyari. Some trails are easy and would serve beginners, while a few are more challenging and are meant for seasoned bikers. An eight-roomed guest house owned by GMVN that is lying unused in the area can also be utilized and incorporated as part of the trail,” Joseph said.
Two glaciers, located within 60km of Munsiyari, will also be promoted as trail destinations once Border Roads Organization builds connecting roads to the two locations. At present, the glaciers can be accessed only on foot or by helicopters.
“Once the last mile connectivity is done, the stretch to the glaciers will provide exciting options for bikers. However, the state will have to ensure availability of rental bikes and expert trainers,” Joseph said.
The tourism department also plans to rope in villages located around Khaliya Top as part of the biking trails, to make it a cultural tourism package. “The involvement of the locals will make it a unique experience. Bikers can avail home stays, enjoy local cuisine and indigenous folk entertainment. In turn, the villagers will also be able to earn some revenue,” said senior tourism official R C Bharadwaj. Incidentally, in Nepal, after a few years of experience, locals in Pokhra are now managing mountain biking tours on their own.
Around 1.5 lakh people from all over the world visit the Upper Mustang area in Nepal for mountain biking. Going by these figures, the state is hopeful that the facility will boost tourist footfall and thus revenue in the state, because Munsiyari is quite similar to Upper Mustang in terms of terrain and climate.
“We’ve contacted adventure biking companies and individuals in Nepal, asking for their involvement to promote Munsiyari by featuring it in their tour packages,” Homchowdhury stated.
An international biking event is being planned in September – October 2015 to officially promote the area, in the presence of travel magazines and national and international media.