We are calling off all our treks falling on/between 28th of March and 25th of April this year.
Over the last week, ever since the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 to be a global pandemic, we have been deliberating over the next set of steps to take.
Should we cancel our batches?
Would it be safe to trek in India right now?
Even if trekking is safe, what about traveling to the trekking destination?
Despite the steady increase in the number of people infected by the Corona Virus in India, most of our trekkers had been turning up for the treks they had booked. We knew calling off our treks at this point would be an inconvenience for many of them.
At the same time, we were also convinced that it would be alright to trek and travel within India since no restrictions had been imposed on domestic travel by the authorities.
So on the 9th of March, we made the decision to leave the choice to our members.
For those who chose to trek, we took all precautions possible from our end to ensure their safety.
For those who chose not to, we ensured our relaxed cancellation policies offered them a full voucher refund.
This was done because we did not want any of our members to feel compelled into traveling/trekking in order to avoid financial losses they might incur with us.
But, as of yesterday, in line with the recent developments, we decided to call off all our treks falling on/between the 28th of March and the 25th of April this year.
There are a number of reasons behind this move:
1) Trekking in the mountains may be safe. But given the surge in the number of infected people in India, traveling to the trekking destination in enclosed spaces like flights, trains and buses, despite taking all necessary precautions, may not be safe.
2) As of today ( 5 P.M on 17.03.2020), the total number of people infected by the Covid-19 in India stands at 137 (including 17 foreign nationals).
But there is a good chance we don’t yet know the full extent of the spread here because India has tested fairly fewer numbers per million people in comparison to other countries.
3) As of 15th March, India has also revised its testing protocol to keep up with the increasing number of people getting infected by the virus.
According to this article in the Economic Times dated 16.03.2020,
“With coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increasing, India’s apex medical body is intensifying the random sampling of people who display flu-like symptoms but don’t have any history of travel to outbreak zones to determine whether community transmission is taking place.
‘Since the number of cases are more, we are more aggressive now,’ said Nivedita Gupta, scientist, epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR. ‘We thought that in order to rule out community transmission, let’s keep on checking these samples also for the presence for Covid-19.’
This comes as reports from other countries suggest that the spread of Covid-19 by people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic may be responsible for more transmission than previously thought.”
If this holds true, then our move to screen participants at the base camp for symptoms before embarking on a trek may not be as effective in protecting our trekkers from the virus.
A person could display no symptoms and still be a carrier of the disease.
While this sounds scary, please don’t give in to hysteria and panic. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, asymptomatic transmission seems to be a conjecture at this point and not the main way by which the disease spreads.
“People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads”.
That said, prevention is always better than cure and we do not want to risk this.
In light of the above reasons, we genuinely believe this is the right step forward in the current scenario.
This was by no means an easy decision to make however.
Our own financial setbacks aside, over 200 trekkers had made their bookings with us in this period.
While we don’t regret the decision to call off our treks, we do regret the inconvenience this has caused our members.
We are aware each of you would have undertaken months of preparation, both physical and mental, to get ready for your trek. And our decision today could be disheartening for some.
But please do understand that you become our responsibility once you reach the Base Camp. As an organisation, if we feel we cannot ensure your safety at any point of time during the trek, then calling it off is the right thing to do.
Secondly, continuing to run our batches would also leave our trek leaders and mountain staff working on the trails vulnerable to contracting the virus and this simply isn't worth risking for us.
For our trekkers whose treks have been cancelled:
Compiled below are answers to some frequently asked questions.
What are the next set of steps I should take?
Kindly cancel the booking you have made from your dashboard. Upon cancellation, you will be issued a full refund in the form of a voucher. You can use this voucher to book the same trek or a different trek at a future date.
Please reach out to us at +91-8588878499 if you need any assistance.
What about my flight tickets?
Given the current predicament, airlines have also relaxed their cancellation/rescheduling policy. Most airlines allow you to reschedule for free and cancel tickets for a nominal price. Depending on what suits your needs, you could either reschedule your flight ticket to a future date ( in tandem with post poning your trek ) or cancel it.
What if I rebook a trek to May and the situation doesn't stabilise by then?
The situation has been changing quickly. We don’t know how things will pan out in May. In case, the situation hasn’t stabilised by then, we will issue full refunds in the form of vouchers for all cancellations done five days before the departure date of the trek.
I don't want to cancel my flight tickets. Even though the trek is cancelled, I am thinking of travelling to the trekking destination nevertheless. What are some precautions I should keep in mind?
Your immune system might be strong. So, there is a good chance you may not contract the disease. Further data shows that majority of the people only get mildly infected and recover with treatment.
That said, please do keep in mind that you could still be a carrier while travelling and pass it on to vulnerable people who may neither have the immunity to fight the disease nor the privilege to opt to stay at home.
Social distancing and healthy hand and respiratory hygiene are what we need at the moment.
So we are requesting you to avoid all non-essential travel.
If you are still planning on traveling however, please refer to the article here for some tips and precautions to protect yourself and others around you.
For our Community:
These are trying times. With non-essential travel cut out, public spaces shut down and companies offering work from home options, it could feel like life is coming to a standstill. We need something to look forward to now more than anything.
Which is why we have decided to relax our booking policy for our summer treks.
According to this policy, you can now block your seat in any of our summer treks by paying a nominal fee instead of the entire trek fee. For more details, please click here.
In case, the situation doesn’t stabilise by summer, we will be offering a full refund of the nominal fee that was paid in the form of a voucher. Please note that this voucher has a validity of two years and is freely transferable, i.e. if you are unable to make use of the voucher, you can transfer it to a friend.
The idea here is to give both our trekkers and ourselves something to look forward to over the next month.
For instance, you can now book a summer trek without having your finances blocked and use it as a motivation to start working on your fitness levels at home :)
What are some things all of us could keep in mind over the next month?
The number of cases are likely to rise in the coming days.
1) It is important to stay alert and aware. Ensure you do not fall prey to the fake news and hysteria floating around. From our end, we will also share timely updates on our social media handles.
2) Opt to stay at home if you have the means to.
Social distancing is one of the best measures to contain the spread of the disease. We need to remember that not all of us have the capability to fight the disease equally. There are certain sections of the population who are more vulnerable to the virus.
The last thing we want to do is be a carrier and pass it on to someone who doesn’t have as strong an immune system to fight the virus.
3) Practice good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene.
4) Be kind
As important as it is to look after ourselves let’s also keep an eye out for those around us.
For instance, we could help an elderly neighbour who is more vulnerable to the virus with their grocery shopping. Tell them about local stores that deliver home or apps like Dunzo that could help minimise their interaction with people outside.
Let’s not hoard mindlessly. Do keep in mind that unless we are sick or taking care of a person who is sick, we don’t need masks.
With our overloaded health care systems already working overtime to contain the spread, let’s leave the masks and other essentials for people who actually need them.
Read, stay alert and aware of the updates. With a little empathy, mindfulness and care, these tough times too shall pass.