At a time when the tourism industry in Nepal seems well intent on marking Tourism Year 2011, a group of four Nepali youths—Prem KC, Diwas Lamichhane, Amrit Pahari and Manish Pahari—have taken something of a commendable initiative. All four work in the trekking business, and with the skills and knowledge afforded to them by their profession, they decided it was time to give some well-deserved attention to the Karnali region.

Any visitor to Karnali will testify to its natural beauty, but the locals here are largely found living in abject poverty. Part of the reason for this and also part of the reason why the Tourism Year campaign hasn’t seen the light of day in Karnali itself, is owing to what the group believes is the lackluster attitude of the government towards the people and the possibilities of the region. “We came to the realisation that the government has done virtually nothing to promote tourism in remote places like this,” KC, the group leader, says. “We felt it was our obligation to draw people’s attention to what they could find here.”

The group denies receiving financial assistance from any organisation. “Financial aid would’ve taken too long to procure and we would never have been able to initiate the campaign in time,” says Lamichhane. He attributes this to the fact that owing to corrupt officials, the budget allocated to tourism-related organisations generally vanishes into the pockets of bureaucrats instead of being directed where they are really needed.

The self-financed trip was fruitful in many ways, allowing the young men a clearer idea of the unique lifestyle and culture of the people in Karnali. Although one can reach Karnali by air to Dolpa or by bus on the Karnali highway, which goes through Surkhet, Dailekh, Kalikot to Jumla, the team opted to travel more on foot so that they could come in closer proximity to the land. In fact, from Kalikot onwards, this was how they moved.