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Issue 3

Aiming Sky-High: The Story of 17000ft Organisation

in Issue 3

We have often heard the phrase ‘not all heroes wear capes’ and that is one way to describe the team effort of 17000ft. Words cannot express the resilience of the team as they slowly inch towards their dream of creating an educated Ladakh by beating the most harshest natural conditions imaginable in the Indian lanscape. Irked by the Ladakhi’s easy choice of profession as tour guides, Sujata had embarked on a journey in 2012 to create some scope of education in the remotest villages of Ladakh; it might even take 3-4 days to walk to certain schools since the roads are too bad for cars to travel.

Sujata Sahu is the leader whose tough as steel willpower has made it possible to have all the 1000 government and non-government schools of Ladakh to be mapped on Google; aptly named 17000ft, the organisation’s workforce is comprised mainly of Ladakhi people who are well educated about their land and culture and are motivated to bring out Ladakh from the veneer of isolation.

Sujata was kind enough to take some time out from her busy routine and give Footloose an insight into the process of managing a huge responsibility as 17000ft; what keeps her going and motivated despite facing natural obstacles on a daily basis? Her love for the land, since the days of her first solo trip had given birth to this beautiful venture called 17000ft; she and her team belive in the spirit of Ladakhi people who have not forgotten their culture.

The organisation has been assisted by UNICEF to manage a program for creating interactive school atmosphere that interests students to learn. Apart from that, mandatory hygiene values are instilled in each and every school. They have created over 250 libraries and is in the process of providing electricity to the schools. The smallest of the schools, with a student count of 6, to the biggest of schools benefit from their expansive programs; they often hold workshops and exchange programs where teachers from the remotest villages come to learn the chops to become better educators.

The children are treated to a better pre-school, they are being introduced to study digitally with tablets, schools are getting colorful makeovers and playgrounds, the hordes of books ranging from fiction to reference books are changing the way Ladakhis are perceiving education. Parents are more interested to send in their kids, now that they can hope for a better life for their children within the boundary of their very soil without having to migrate, looking for opportunities.

The families are helping to preserve Ladakhi culture by sharing their folklores for which there was no previous written account. Sujata and her team is pulling all stops to get those fables translated to Bhoti, their language, with illustrations that comply with the Ladakhi way of life. Infact they have teamed up with famous publishers like Scholastic, to get some of their titles translated into Bhoti as well.

As of 2018, Sujata and her team is working hand in hand with the government  totrain better educators andbring better infrastructure to the schools in the harsh confines of Ladakh’s terrain.

Today, after 6 years 17000ft stands as tall as the Himalayas for being a linchpin in restructuring the social and educational infrastructure of Ladakh.

The Rise Of Mountain Biking In Ladakh: Three Friends And a Dream

in Issue 3

Gyatso, Skaldan and Jampelenter their office in Chanspa Road everyday with one hope only: to keep their hearts of adventure alive and with that, to change the face of adventure sports in Ladakh.

“Had hard times? No. We are living the hard times now, at this age. But I know that we are meant to do this. We are born to do this.So there is no turning back now.”

With a bunch of at least 30 bikes, Unexplored Ladakh: A Quintessential Bike Studio, wishes to divert the tourist attention to pure mountain biking.

The effect on the environment of Ladakh due to emissions from vehicles have been huge over the years. The people of Ladakh have objected to the non-restriction in the number of motorcycles entering Ladakh through Manali and Srinagar from the rest of the country, but till date, no pro-environment development has taken place in the region.

Business through tourism is the only way Ladakh’s cash economy is increasing on this date. Life in Ladakh has forever focused on building up a self-sustainable livelihood in collaboration with nature and the resources that can be cultivated out in the region. The early 90s promoted tourism in Ladakh through the idea of motorcycling road trips. Tourism boomed, roads became better, shops popped on sides of roads every 10 kilometers, the main city became populous, things became overpriced and then came hotels and guesthouses. Today, it looks like it is ready for you to come and spend money. At every corner of every lane in the city of Leh, one can find a Royal Enfield or Avenger motorcycle studio wherefrom you rent your vehicle and go exploring. Skaldan has a different philosophy to adventure.

“I always believe sports are for people who are guided by the philosophy of healthy being. You can take physical risks when you are healthy and have confidence and control over your body. Mountain biking gives you a healthy adventure as well as a totally different experience.”

Unexplored Ladakh takes a limited number of adventurers biking across traditional trekking trails. We were taken a bit aback by the idea because there are trails where one cannot easily think of biking. How is that possible?

Gyatso says “There has been days when we were sitting together over cups after cups of tea to come up with something new and sensational, different from everyone else. Then we thought, we can definitely carry our bikes up and then try to ride down. We ascend by hiking and descend by biking.”

We ascend by hiking and descend by biking.

We turn to Jampel, a freelance journalist who, along with Unexplored Ladakh, aspires to found and run the first ever adventure sports magazine in Ladakh. He says “Mountain Biking is one of the most responsible adventure activities that you can do at mountain destinations. Another most important factor that we uphold is not making noise. Motorbikes make noise. A lot of noise. We don’t.”

Diving deep into the philosophy of adventure, we asked Skaldan how they handle adventurers when they are demotivated and exhausted on their trails. Skaldan and Gyatso look at each other and Skaldan says “That is the point when it becomes necessary for us to be present with our customers. You see, this is the problem with most ventures. Selling is the only thing they do. When you nurture your product like a being, it becomes better and better. Our product becomes better with our participation. We need to be there to encourage our people, to re-motivate them and help them complete their trail.”

Gyatso says “Which brings me to a very important statement. When you require help while you are completing an adventure, never hesitate to ask for it. It only shows how respectful you are to the treacherousness of nature and how you learn to adapt step by step. All of us learn. We don’t conquer nature. It conquers us. We just keep coming and going.”

With incredible energy in all three founders of Unexplored Ladakh, they wish to customize trails for individual, experienced adventurers and document their journeys to inspire and show way to more mountain bikers in future, thus leading to a tectonic shift in the adventure industry in Ladakh. 

Issue 3 – The Dards of Hanu – Free Download Digital Edition

in Issue 3

Issue 3 features the Dards of Hanu, the Indo-Aryans living in Ladakh since 200BC. Their culture is a culture that has been shaped around nature and has remained so ever since. Issue 3 also exhibits facets of contemporary Ladakhi culture and send out a message to future tourists and travelers to undertake responsible tourism and by doing that, respect the sanctity and beauty of this majestic mountain desert.

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Issue 3 – The Dards of Hanu Releases on October 28

in Issue 3

Issue 3 features the Dards of Hanu. The Dards are the only living Aryans in the Himalayas, in Hanu Valley near Kargil. The locals also call them the Brukpas, but a respectable way to call them is by the name “Dards”.

Along with this, Issue 3 also exhibits various facets of the culture of the Ladakhi people. It passes a message to you, in other words, the urge of the Ladakhi people to start responsible tourism in Ladakh region since it has, over the years, witnessed massive disintegration in sanctity and environment due to rise of tourism.

Issue 3 introduces abstract monument autobiography, for the first time in Footloose Magazine, through the words of Anwesa Guha.

We release on October 28, 2018.

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